A TURN IN THE SOUTH

A revealing, disturbing, elegiac journey with Naipaul (Finding the Center: Two Narratives, 1984; etc.) as he shows us America's Deep South through his own eyes—and southerners as they see themselves. The South that Naipaul sees everywhere carries the weight of history: the history of race relations, the history of family, the history of subjugation by the North. The first half of the narrative is given to race relations: travelling through Charleston, all-black Tuskegee University, all-white Forsythe County, Naipaul records the candid opinions of blacks and whites (not a cheery picture). Religion is a constant presence, and for many, black and white, a primary source of identity. For others, identity is rooted in family history and status: this is an intensely class-conscious society. Naipaul visits a vast new Nissan plant and an industrial catfish farm; considers "rednecks" (discussing them with, among others, Eudora Welty), and, in conversation with songwriter Bob McDill, the appeal of country music. A visit to Elvis' birthplace leads to an understanding of the "redneck" soul. Talks with a cross section of Church of Christ congregations say much, as does a visit with up-and-coming far-right politician ("Jessecrat") Barry McCarty. Naipaul concludes his journey with the remarkable Jim Apple-white, a poet with a powerful vision of the beauty of the disappearing tobacco-farming culture. Naipaul uses both the alien nature of what he sees and the resonances it creates with his own past in Trinidad to etch his impressions subtly and deeply: a powerful, permanent portrait of a unique culture.

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 1988

ISBN: 0679724885

Page Count: 391

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1988

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Highly recommended—anyone at all interested in music will learn a lot from this book.

HOW MUSIC WORKS

From the former Talking Heads frontman, a supremely intelligent, superbly written dissection of music as an art form and way of life.

Drawing on a lifetime of music-making as an amateur, professional, performer, producer, band member and solo artist, Byrne (Bicycle Diaries, 2009) tackles the question implicit in his title from multiple angles: How does music work on the ear, brain and body? How do words relate to music in a song? How does live performance relate to recorded performance? What effect has technology had on music, and music on technology? Fans of the Talking Heads should find plenty to love about this book. Steering clear of the conflicts leading to the band’s breakup, Byrne walks through the history, album by album, to illustrate how his views about performance and recording changed with the onset of fame and (small) fortune. He devotes a chapter to the circumstances that made the gritty CBGB nightclub an ideal scene for adventurous artists like Patti Smith, the Ramones, Blondie and Tom Verlaine and Television. Always an intensely thoughtful experimenter, here he lets us in on the thinking behind the experiments. But this book is not just, or even primarily, a rock memoir. It’s also an exploration of the radical transformation—or surprising durability—of music from the beginning of the age of mechanical reproduction through the era of iTunes and MP3s. Byrne touches on all kinds of music from all ages and every part of the world.

Highly recommended—anyone at all interested in music will learn a lot from this book.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-936365-53-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: McSweeney’s

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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Startling, at times pretentious in its self-regard, but ultimately breathtaking: The Lost Weekend for the under-25 set.

A MILLION LITTLE PIECES

Frey’s lacerating, intimate debut chronicles his recovery from multiple addictions with adrenal rage and sprawling prose.

After ten years of alcoholism and three years of crack addiction, the 23-year-old author awakens from a blackout aboard a Chicago-bound airplane, “covered with a colorful mixture of spit, snot, urine, vomit and blood.” While intoxicated, he learns, he had fallen from a fire escape and damaged his teeth and face. His family persuades him to enter a Minnesota clinic, described as “the oldest Residential Drug and Alcohol Facility in the World.” Frey’s enormous alcohol habit, combined with his use of “Cocaine . . . Pills, acid, mushrooms, meth, PCP and glue,” make this a very rough ride, with the DTs quickly setting in: “The bugs crawl onto my skin and they start biting me and I try to kill them.” Frey captures with often discomforting acuity the daily grind and painful reacquaintance with human sensation that occur in long-term detox; for example, he must undergo reconstructive dental surgery without anesthetic, an ordeal rendered in excruciating detail. Very gradually, he confronts the “demons” that compelled him towards epic chemical abuse, although it takes him longer to recognize his own culpability in self-destructive acts. He effectively portrays the volatile yet loyal relationships of people in recovery as he forms bonds with a damaged young woman, an addicted mobster, and an alcoholic judge. Although he rejects the familiar 12-step program of AA, he finds strength in the principles of Taoism and (somewhat to his surprise) in the unflinching support of family, friends, and therapists, who help him avoid a relapse. Our acerbic narrator conveys urgency and youthful spirit with an angry, clinical tone and some initially off-putting prose tics—irregular paragraph breaks, unpunctuated dialogue, scattered capitalization, few commas—that ultimately create striking accruals of verisimilitude and plausible human portraits.

Startling, at times pretentious in its self-regard, but ultimately breathtaking: The Lost Weekend for the under-25 set.

Pub Date: April 15, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-50775-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2003

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