THE GHOSTS OF MEDGAR EVERS

A TALE OF RACE, MURDER, MISSISSIPPI, AND HOLLYWOOD

A certain modesty of scope, a specificity of observation, and an adherence to the ingrained understanding of a native are what make this ``the-making-of'' story a surprisingly successful book about the legacy of the civil rights movement. Morris (New York Days, 1993, etc.) gives a good-natured chronicle of the making of Ghosts of Mississippi, Rob Reiner's movie about the 1994 conviction of Byron De La Beckwith for the murder of Medgar Evers three decades before. It's a curious mixture of a serious civil rights history and a whimsical peek into the Hollywood fiction factory. But these elements are held together because the movie was based on such fresh facts that it became a small part of the history itself. The Hollywood and the history are also held together because they're both rooted in Morris's personal experience growing up near the movie's setting and as an originator of the project. Ghosts of Mississippi attracted criticism for its focus on the white hero-prosecutor, Bobby DeLaughter. But Morris's sympathetic account leaves little doubt of the enormous, and probably rare, amount of good faith behind the project while documenting the complex route, the combination of creative talents and real-life characters, that brought the story from a memo by Morris all the way to the screen. But while Morris notes that he ``had grown up with this diabolic hatred,'' he reveals almost nothing about his own experience in the Jim Crow South, sticking mainly to the landscape in his reveries. Still, he waxes eloquent on Mississippi's deep, distinctive past and uses his childhood recollections to otherwise great effect in observing the movie's dramatization of that past. If, in the words of film critic Jami Bernard, the movie made ``a convincing case for why history weighs so heavily'' on its hero, Morris equally convincingly shows history weighing heavily, for once, on Hollywood. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen) (Author tour)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-679-45956-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1997

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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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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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