Humane, sensible and impeccably written; a fitting summation of a life interestingly lived, and one hopes with more...

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YOU MUST SET FORTH AT DAWN

A MEMOIR

Picking up where Ake (1982) leaves off, Nigerian Nobel laureate Soyinka (Climate of Fear, 2005, etc.) brings his dossier up to the present.

This latest volume is haunted by the hardships of exile and intimations of mortality. Soyinka has known the first since before 1960, the year of Nigeria’s independence, when he returned from studying abroad. “I was not pessimistic about the future but extremely cautious, having come into contact with the first-generation leaders in my student days in England,” he writes—sagely, for those leaders would become a string of dictators, and he would find himself in their prisons not long afterward. Even in Nigeria, he recalls, Soyinka was a wanderer: “The road and I . . . became partners in the quest for an extended self-discovery.” As it did his cousin Fela Kuti, the road took Soyinka all over the world, sometimes to fine and desirable places such as Jamaica, which becomes a transoceanic reflection of the mother country, and sometimes to less hospitable climes such as Harvard (“No one had informed me that my sentence of exile would be served in the Arctic wastes”). The road also brought Soyinka fame and, with the attainment of the Nobel Prize in literature in 1986, a certain fortune as well. About that honor Soyinka is clearly of two minds; as he writes, somewhat elliptically, “the Nobel appears to be a bug whose bite is craved, sometimes without a sense of discrimination or inhibition,” while elsewhere he grumbles that “the moment the next beauty queen [is] crowned had better be recognized as my hour of liberation.” The burden of the Swedish medal aside, though, Soyinka attends to other weighty matters, including the seemingly constant passing of friends, the continuing crisis of Africa and his homecoming to one new dictator after another.

Humane, sensible and impeccably written; a fitting summation of a life interestingly lived, and one hopes with more reflections to come.

Pub Date: April 18, 2006

ISBN: 0-375-50365-X

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2006

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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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