Rich with surprises and erudition, informed by an alchemist’s imagination.



Nobel Laureate Naipaul (Magic Seeds, 2004, etc.) looks back at the education, writers, books, countries, people and circumstances that have influenced him and his work.

“All my life I have had to think about ways of looking and how they alter the configuration of the world,” the author declares in an opening passage about his boyhood in Trinidad. He then offers five interconnected essays that explore various aspects of this thesis, sometimes through the experiences of the notable (Gandhi), sometimes through the eyes of the nearly anonymous (an upholsterer), sometimes through those tiny moments of immense significance that have long been a feature of Naipaul’s work. At various points he lengthily—and not always flatteringly—examines the careers of other literary figures. When he finally gets around to reading A Dance to the Music of Time after his friend Anthony Powell’s death, for example, Naipaul is “appalled” by the carelessness and superficiality of much of its prose. Likewise, he confesses an inability to appreciate Graham Greene and assails Salammbô, the long historical novel Flaubert wrote after Madame Bovary (which Naipaul loves). Earning gentler treatment are Derek Walcott’s poems and Gandhi’s autobiography, the latter deemed “a masterpiece.” Unobtrusively, Naipaul offers slender slices of his own life: his experiences writing book reviews (he no longer likes to do them), as a struggling novelist trying to find his voice and as a lifelong voracious reader. Some gripping paragraphs anatomize the art of writing; academic work, he believes, retards a “real” writer’s development. Here and there, small surprises leap out, such as the seven-word revelation that his mother never read a word of his work. But Naipaul is most interested throughout in how Trinidad, India, England and other places affect the writer’s vision and the artist’s craft.

Rich with surprises and erudition, informed by an alchemist’s imagination.

Pub Date: May 5, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-375-40738-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2008

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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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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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