Brilliant and utterly transfixing.

MOTHERS, FATHERS, AND OTHERS

ESSAYS

Another outstanding compilation of essays from Hustvedt.

As in her previous standout collections, the author shares personal, familial stories as well as incisive ruminations on a breadth of literary, political, arcane, and germane subjects. These 20 essays and lectures, 12 of which have been previously published and/or delivered in some other version, were penned between 2017 and 2020. The first pieces are more biographical than those that follow. Early on, Hustvedt deftly chronicles her mother’s time in Nazi-occupied Norway as a student at the University of Oslo, her grandmother’s life in rural Minnesota, and her own burial plans. Although each essay is a stand-alone piece, their cumulative effect is staggering. Themes related to sexual hierarchies abound, whether the author is investigating Wuthering Heights, childhood patterning, or artist Louise Bourgeois. “The simple fact that every person begins inside another person haunts motherhood,” she writes. Throughout, Hustvedt questions maternal archetypes and ideology: “Mother ideas invade mothering with a stark morality of good and evil that rarely touches fathering”; “Pregnancy is a chimeric state, and the chimera is still a terrifying animal because it involves mixing”; [Misogyny] is a strange hate…because every human being was born from a woman or person with female reproductive organs”; “That the body, emotion, and nature have been associated with passive femininity, and the mind, reason, and culture with active masculinity is a given in the Western tradition.” The author, one of our most appealing literary polymaths, quotes innumerable resources, and she maintains a pleasingly nuanced balance between striking originality and intellectual synthesis. Pluralism also resonates as a topic relevant to both parenting and literature. “Human beings engage with a book, especially a novel, with an intimacy that does not pertain to most other inanimate objects. Reading is a form of ordinary possession of one person by another,” she writes, delineating why art cannot be confined to a fixed location nor books (like motherhood) to a single meaning.

Brilliant and utterly transfixing.

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982176-39-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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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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A moving essay that should find its way into the hands of all students and teachers to provoke new conversation and...

WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS

An enchanting plea by the award-winning Nigerian novelist to channel anger about gender inequality into positive change.

Employing personal experience in her examination of “the specific and particular problem of gender,” National Book Critics Circle winner Adichie (Americanah, 2013, etc.) gently and effectively brings the argument about whether feminism is still relevant to an accessible level for all readers. An edited version of a 2012 TEDxEuston talk she delivered, this brief essay moves from the personal to the general. The author discusses how she was treated as a second-class citizen back home in Nigeria (walking into a hotel and being taken for a sex worker; shut out of even family meetings, in which only the male members participate) and suggests new ways of socialization for both girls and boys (e.g., teaching both to cook). Adichie assumes most of her readers are like her “brilliant, progressive” friend Louis, who insists that women were discriminated against in the past but that “[e]verything is fine now for women.” Yet when actively confronted by an instance of gender bias—the parking attendant thanked Louis for the tip, although Adichie had been the one to give it—Louis had to recognize that men still don’t recognize a woman’s full equality in society. The example from her childhood at school in Nigeria is perhaps the most poignant, demonstrating how insidious and entrenched gender bias is and how damaging it is to the tender psyches of young people: The primary teacher enforced an arbitrary rule (“she assumed it was obvious”) that the class monitor had to be a boy, even though the then-9-year-old author had earned the privilege by winning the highest grade in the class. Adichie makes her arguments quietly but skillfully.

A moving essay that should find its way into the hands of all students and teachers to provoke new conversation and awareness.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-101-91176-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Anchor

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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