MAN FROM THE USSR & OTHER PLAYS

AND OTHER PLAYS

Two essays on drama highlight this rather marginal contribution to the Nabokov oeuvre—and Nabokov approaches theater in a dismissive, acerbic humor, much as he approached Russian literature in the recently published Lectures. Nabokov asks, conservatively, for the absolute retention of a single crucial dramatic convention, regarding spectators and the play onstage: "The first is aware of the second but has no power over it. The second is unaware of the first, but has the power of moving it. Broadly speaking, this is very near to what happens in the mutual relations between me and the world I see, and this too is not merely a formula of existence, but also a necessary convention without which neither I nor the world could exist." And, conversely, less persuasively, Nabokov sees tragedy—ever since Lear, Hamlet, and Gogol—as being hobbled by conventional cause-and-effect, deaf to accident: "What even the greatest playwrights have never realized is that chance is not always stumbling and that the tragedies of real life are based on the beauty of the horror of chance—not merely on its ridiculousness." The four plays here, however, embody Nabokov's rules-for-drama to, at best, a very limited degree. Two one-acters in verse—about Capt. Scott at the Pole, about a chance reunion between an executioner and one of his almost-victims—are thin and shapeless. The two longer plays, both set in Russian-ÉmigrÉ milieux, do illustrate a vaguely comic apprehension mixed with self-dramatization: the title drama concerns ÉmigrÉ fears about a possible Soviet agent; a comedy, The Event, involves a painter in fear of being shot once again by the man (his wife's ex-lover) who has already tried to kill him. Indifferent playwrighting, mildly provocative essays: a minor addition to the Nabokov shelf.

Pub Date: Nov. 21, 1984

ISBN: 0156569450

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1984

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NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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