Thoughtful studies by an evenhanded critic that will no doubt urge readers back to the original texts.




An examination of the work of six so-called “confessional” poets—Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, John Berryman, Randall Jarrell, Delmore Schwartz, and Sylvia Plath—all schooled in modernism and poised to break the rules.

New York Sun book critic Kirsch calls these poets “rebellious heirs” of T.S. Eliot, who famously dictated that poetry should not be “the expression of personality, but an escape from personality.” Indeed, Lowell et al. were trained variously by New Critics, yet all transcended the heroic strictures of modernism by artfully working into their poetry the inner demons of their personal lives, which often involved mental illness, alcoholism, or suicide. Kirsch proposes a “brief biography of their poetry” by dropping in a few details from their lives only to show how brilliantly they reworked the material for effect. Beginning with Lowell, Kirsch quotes Allen Tate’s appalled warning—after reading Life Studies in manuscript, he declared, “the poems are composed of unassimilated details, terribly intimate, and coldly noted . . . of interest only to you”—then proceeds to analyze Lowell’s masterly manipulation of the material. Bishop’s “experiments in control” are set against Schwartz’s “pedestrian” attempts at reconciling art and life through artful spontaneity and innovation. By juxtaposing his childhood as a Brooklyn Jewish immigrant with that of the children of Tsar Nicholas II, for example, in the poem “The Ballad of the Children of the Czar,” Schwartz was the first who dared to dignify (and elevate) an intimate, shameful experience. Kirsch admirably works through Berryman’s “harrowingly intimate” poetry, which emerged despite his zealous apprenticeship under Yeats, contrasting him with Jarrell, who responded to the “burden” of breaking from Modernism by “respectful, self-protective evasion.” The essay on Plath sheds no new light, but demonstrates a perceptive restraint when comparing her “juvenilia” with the ferocious, mature style of later work that transformed her experience “beyond recognition.”

Thoughtful studies by an evenhanded critic that will no doubt urge readers back to the original texts.

Pub Date: April 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-393-05197-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2005

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



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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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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