A reminder that daily ruminations of even a highly literate and engaging writer are not invariably erudite.

READ REVIEW

A READING DIARY

A PASSIONATE READER’S REFLECTIONS ON A YEAR OF BOOKS

Globetrotting polyglot Manguel (Reading Pictures, 2001, etc.) rereads favorite books, one per month, as the Iraq War simmers, then boils.

A chronicle of one’s reading is quickly becoming a popular subgenre among memoirists, and Manguel’s entry reflects his multilingual capabilities as well as his eclectic interests. To Wells, Kipling, and Doyle, he stirs in some Goethe and Cervantes, then spices the mixture with Dino Buzzati, Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, and others. Manguel’s title fits. The diary format allows him to reflect on the writers and their texts but also on current events, dreams (including an affecting one about him and his late father dining in a restaurant), friends, houses, gardens, regrets, and surprises. His fondness for supplying long—perhaps overlong—quotations from other writers at times gives his text the feel of a commonplace work teetering on the brink of pretentiousness. And there are an awful lot of lists—e.g., favorite detective novels, favorite cities, fictional mad scientists, books he wishes he owned (Keats’s copy of Chapman’s Homer, etc.). The “diary” begins in June 2002 and concludes in May 2003; as the Iraq War moves from bombast to bombs, Manguel’s criticism of the Bush administration sharpens. There is, he says at last, no moral distinction between Saddam Hussein and George W. Bush. We hear too about his “new” house in France (it dates to the 13th century) and the shelving he’s installing to accommodate a personal collection that appears to rival the Great Library of Alexandria. Like many journals, this intermingles the profound with the trite and presents at least one grand irony: Manguel declares early that he doesn’t like people to sum up books for him, then spends the rest of his text practicing that very sin.

A reminder that daily ruminations of even a highly literate and engaging writer are not invariably erudite.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-374-24742-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2004

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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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