A nostalgic, rueful, and sometimes sweetly funny collection.




Digressive, impressionistic musings on love, loss, and “the multiselves we all carry inside.”

When he was a boy, poet and essayist Goldbarth (Creative Writing/Wichita State Univ.; Selfish: Poems, 2015, etc.) was thrilled by a publishing gimmick promoted by Ace Books: for 35 cents, science-fiction fans could buy two books in one, “each upside down to the other, each with its independent enticing cover and title page.” Goldbarth uses this “topsy-turvying” for his latest collection of previously published essays, but since both sides have the same cover, containing essays not thematically or stylistically different, his choice, though obviously an homage, seems puzzling. More logical was his plan to publish an Ace Double with a life of Keats on one side and a life of Clyde Tombaugh—a self-taught astronomer who discovered 29,000 galaxies, 3,196 asteroids, 1,800 variable stars, 2 comets, and the planet Pluto—on the other. As it is, Goldbarth tells both stories in “Two Characters in Search of an Essay,” an imaginative juxtaposition of two lives focused on, and guided by, a quest to transcend mundane reality. The author shares that quest: “I want to write a poem that’s good enough to endure beyond my own bodily life,” he confesses; “I want to work at a marriage that’s finally larger and more luminous than either I or my wife as individuals.” Love—between Keats and Fanny Brawne, for example, or Goldbarth and his wife—occupies his thoughts, as does the mirroring of past and present. He muses on lust in “Roman Erotic Poetry,” which juxtaposes the love poems of Catullus with the “con-, recom-, and uncombining” of friends and colleagues: Martha and Arthur, who have split up; and Sweet and Danny, who seem obviously in love—obvious to everyone but themselves. “We are so royally screwed up, we human beings,” concludes the author, whose tone ranges from poetic and literary to slapdash and colloquial, which can make for jarring reading.

A nostalgic, rueful, and sometimes sweetly funny collection.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-55597-761-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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


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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