AMONG THE BELIEVERS

AN ISLAMIC JOURNEY

Naipaul traveled from Iran to Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and back in 1979-80, seeking the meaning of "Islamization"—an exceptional writer/observer/commentator intersecting with an epic anti-intellectual, anti-modernist upheaval. Or is it? Naipaul the writer doesn't tip his hand: in transit, he is the tireless interrogator; the collector of persons, their life-stories, their outlooks—without the scorn he has directed toward his own in the past, in writing of India and the Caribbean. In Iran, he exposes himself to the leading ayatollas in their holy cities, notes the attendant stupor or frenzy; but his companion throughout is his interpreter Behzad, and Behzad is another kind of revolutionary, a communist: two distinct strands, sustained by different faiths, but by "absolute faith" nonetheless. "And both were fed by the same passions: justice, union, vengeance." By resentment against "a great new encircling civilization," to be depended on but not mastered. Pakistan does not fall so readily into a pattern: carved out of colonial India as a Muslim homeland, its people attribute their woes to their own imperfections, to being insufficiently "pure"; yet they live by the export of their own people too—"by appealing to the ideals of the alien civilizations whose virtues they denied at home." Still, Naipaul warms to the purest of the pure, the suspect minority Ahmadis; and to the plight of the in-betweens—like Islamicist newspaperman Nusrat, who'd like to be a Third-World media expert . . . and, recognizing the contradictions, is vulnerable to reproach. As Naipaul moves further East, into the complex civilizations of Malaysia and Indonesia where the past is ever-present, the tone of the narrative becomes gentler. In Malaysia, the villagers have grown up as strangers in a country built and run by the British and Chinese; so religion is race, race is religion; and Shaft, a stalwart of the Muslim youth movement—with whom Naipaul has the book's most searching conversations—is both grieving and aggrieved: in his own eyes, Shaft "was the first man expelled from paradise. He blamed the world; he shifted the whole burden of that accommodation upon Islam." Indonesia presents Naipaul with the remarkable personality of 56-year-old poet Sitor—recently wed in a tribal ceremony to comely young Dutch Barbara, promoter of Indonesian crafts: "The glamour of Indonesia and Sitor, the poet, for Barbara; for Sitor, the glamour and security of Barbara and Europe." Indonesia also brings the stellar anecdote: Naipaul has gone to see a celebrated pesantren, or Muslim village commune/ school; and, amid the aimlessness and disorder, he is besieged by shouts of "Illich! Illich!" Everything outside is shut out—but it is the outside (per one-time visitor Illich) that certifies success. And so the book turns back, in a way familiar to Naipaul readers, on the delusions of both the West and the Islamic world: "It was the late twentieth century that had made Islam revolutionary, given new meaning to old Islamic ideas" . . . which, in themselves, supplied no answers. But whether or not one accepts Naipaul's final judgment in its entirety (the leftist Behzads will multiply, he foresees), the journey proceeds on many challenging, absorbing levels.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1981

ISBN: 0394711955

Page Count: 443

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1981

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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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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