Sometimes entertaining, sometimes annoying: an essay that takes the reader on a trip around the author’s psyche but...

RIDING TOWARD EVERYWHERE

An introspective, idiosyncratic tribute to train-hopping, replete with nods to Kerouac, Whitman, Hemingway, Twain, London and Thoreau.

Hyper-prolific novelist, short-story writer, essayist and journalist Vollmann (Europe Central, 2005, etc.) “catches out” freight trains, sometimes alone and sometimes with his nimble, chubby, middle-aged friend Steve. They evade railroad bulls in dreary train yards, often hunkering down in rainy darkness and drinking beer until they see their chance to climb aboard. Conformity, rules and regulations are clearly anathema to the author. He writes of his loathing for “the unfreedom that is creeping over America,” a place he likens to a railroad humpyard where “cars and citizens can be nudged down the hill onto various classification tracks.” Train-hopping is his response to the recurrent feeling, “I’ve got to get out of here.” It’s all about freedom, living more intensely and seeing things that he would never see otherwise. The landscapes and wildlife Vollmann glimpses along the way make this in some small sense a travelogue of the western states, but he has a much greater interest in human behavior. He explores hobo jungles and seeks out lifelong train-hoppers to interview, trying rather unsuccessfully to extract from them the truths of their sad, dangerous, lonely lives. More than 60 amateurish black-and-white snapshots by Vollmann capture trains, train yards, views from the open doors of freight cars, hobos and a distasteful assortment of graffiti, often hate-filled and featuring crude, sexually explicit drawings. Boarding a freight train with an unknown destination is a gamble, he writes, “much like life; you don’t know the future.”

Sometimes entertaining, sometimes annoying: an essay that takes the reader on a trip around the author’s psyche but otherwise seems to go nowhere.

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-125675-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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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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