FINDING THE CENTER

TWO NARRATIVES

Though some of his early fiction is autobiographical, Naipual seems uncomfortable when writing about himself—and the first of the two pieces here, "Prologue to an Autobiography," is a circuitous account of "my literary beginnings and the imaginative promptings of my many-sided background." Naipaul starts with the mid-1950s day when he drafted his first publishable story, writing in a room at London's BBC and nervously showing the pages to three encouraging young colleagues. ("Such anxiety; such ambition.") The story's subject-matter—his childhood street, the adventurous yearnings of a family friend named "Bogart"—lead him back to memories of Trinidad; his literary strivings lead him back to memories of his tormented father, a sometime journalist (whose old clippings inspired V.S. to love "the idea of print") and unpublished story-writer—whose longest tale became "the greatest imaginative experience" of his childhood. ("Every new bit was read out to me, every little variation; and I read every new typescript my father made as the story grew.") But then Naipaul goes on to record how all of his childhood notions had to be revised, often as part of the discovery-process involved in writing. For his career, that "noble thing," he felt he had to leave the limited culture of Trinidad's Indian community—but actually "it was necessary to go back." Likewise, a 1970s reunion with the once-adventurous Bogart character—who fled Trinidad for cosmopolitan Venezuela only to find dreariness and rootlessness—underlines the difficulty of leaving a native tradition behind. And finally the focus returns to the journalist-father—as Naipual discovers new facts about him in the 1970s: his progressive ideas, which earned him the hostility of his strict, devout Hindu family ("a totalitarian organization"); a dreadful humiliation, when he was forced to kowtow to tribal magic (an actual N. Y. Herald Tribune headline, 6/24/33: "REPORTER SACRIFICES GOAT TO MOLLIFY HINDU GODDESS"); and the mental instability that ensued—a panic that Naipaul now links to the "center" of his own not-so-simple ambition. The second piece, "The Crocodiles of Yamoussoukro," picks up on this theme of tribal magic vs. European-style progress—and runs it into the ground somewhat. Naipaul visits the Ivory Coast, one of West Africa's success stories: economic health, benevolent dictator/one-party system, skyscrapers. But, in talking to several residents (including two intriguingly displaced West Indian women), he finds that the Africans still live more in the spirit-world than the Europeans' "real" one—with magic and ritual symbolized by the sacred crocodiles outside the Presidential Palace, fed on live chickens in public ceremonies. Still, if Naipaul belabors this familiar theme (with its implicit distaste for tribal ways), the travelogue is rich in edgy people and shrewd background-details. And though "Prologue to an Autobiography" is too self-consciously structured to be affecting, its curious/charming fragments provide rare personal close-ups of a major writer.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 1984

ISBN: 0140073957

Page Count: 159

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1984

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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON

This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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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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