Books by James Kimbrell

Released: June 1, 1998

paper 1-889330-14-0 Chosen by Kimbrell's former teacher, Charles Wright, for the Kathyrn A. Morton Prize, this fine debut volume also comes with a perfunctory preface by Wright, whose fulsome prose ill serves the modest achievement of Kimrell's fluent verse. Often inspired by the landscape of the South, Kimbrell soon makes clear his preference for —the view above ourselves,— his desire to see from the perspective of the stars. —Mt. Pisgah— beautifully evokes a country scene of a —beam bridge/Above the snake-thick waters,— and —A Greeting— takes the poet back inside a southern mansion where, as a child, he joined a sÇance. At the same time, —Self-Portrait, Leakesville— suggests the need to leave behind his rural past, and a group of poems set in South Korea nicely answers that call. Other childhood episodes occasion charming poems: playing hooking to sit atop a horse in a barn; a night of wonderful passion with a —rebellious Pentecostal daughter;— and his lust as a teenaged stock clerk for a comely married customer. At the heart of the volume is the long title sequence about the poet's father, a mentally disturbed bricklayer, whose stays in the asylum lead to lots of familial discord and eventual divorce, but most of all to utter helplessness on the poet's part. Seeing him years later, with his voice box removed, Kimbrell dwells in the silences between them (—My Father at the North Street Boarding House—), the same silences that pervade a failed relationship (—Letters to a Vanishing FiancÇe—). Strong work by a poet of much promise. Read full book review >
BARBRA by James Kimbrell
Released: April 15, 1992

Cool-minded but warmhearted follow-up to the late Kimbrell's first volume of Barbra (1989). Kimbrell died of AIDS as that book went to press, and thus this one has been edited by his sister Cheryl, who has simplified some of his more literary phrasings and mentions only in passing Streisand's second directorial effort, The Prince of Tides, and a new four-CD retrospective album of rare and previously unreleased recordings. Ten years in the writing, the two volumes together have no equal as a midcareer summation of the actress-singer's talents, failings, and successes. Kimbrell has a way of absorbing Streisand's occasional bad press and, without blinking, reversing ``egomania'' or failure into strength of character and a form of success. In fact, the most outrageous attacks on Streisand, by a foaming John Simon—who time and again is bent on equating narcissism with masturbation—become laughably vicious as they inventory Streisand's face and character as summits of ugliness. Even the singer's next-to-worst critics herein admit awe of her talent. Volume two opens with slapstick Streisand in What's Up, Doc?, Peter Bogdanovich's screwball comedy that Streisand did not want to make, felt uncomfortable filming, and has never liked, despite its being her biggest earner compared to costs. As before, the book moves backwards, from 1971 toward the making of her first film, Funny Girl, in 1967. Before Funny Girl was even released, Streisand had finished the massively mounted (and disappointing) Hello, Dolly and was midway through On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. Her recording career dipped with the eruption of folk and rock 'n' roll singer-writers, then made a strong comeback as she strove for crossover status from easy-listening nostalgia to hooking into the youth market. The real goods, a must for fans. (Photographs.) Read full book review >
BARBRA by James Kimbrell
Released: April 3, 1989

The big Barbra Streisand book, with not much new, perhaps, but with everything honestly worth remembering pasted together or excellently condensed—and altogether admirable. Aside from a handful of interviews, Kimbrell seems to have relied heavily on an extensive Streisand bibliography that is much deeper and richer than is usual with celebrity bios—and he's also come up with an inspired method of telling Streisand's story: backwards. He starts with her latest failed love affair—with TV's Don Johnson (begun when she was 45, he 38)—her latest record, then her live concert at home, then her first song-less film, Nuts, then "The Broadway Album," then the "Emotion" album, then her star-directed Yentl, and so on, album by picture by album, as backward reels the mind for decades until—after 400 pages—on April 24, 1942, Barbara Joan Streisand ("so melodic and musical—so lusty and emotional") is born. The advantage here is that the focus is kept strongly on the works, co-actors, producers, and musicians, all of which Kimbrell analyzes with the fascination only a Streisand maniac might muster. No aspect of any work escapes him, from album covers and photographs to Streisand's deep confabs with composers like Stephen Sondheim about the meanings of their lyrics (the recalcitrant "Send in the Clowns"). Kimbrell is clearheaded and candid about Streisand's bad press but is also her greatest defender, meeting head-on her critics' lambastings of her for vanity and egomania and for drowning out any surrounding talents with her own bravura: "This is an artist whose sheer notoriety often precludes appreciation of her vast gift. . .Antagonists hate not her work but the Streisand personality. Even personal adversaries generally acknowledge her talent." He even persuades you she's beautiful. A very big diamond meant for Barbra's finger. Read full book review >