A valuable and extensive collection, intelligently edited.

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SPONTANEOUS MIND

SELECTED INTERVIEWS, 1958-1996

Ginsberg, voluble when not downright loquacious, gave hundreds of interviews over his 40-year career; Carter has chosen generously for this new gathering, including many previously uncollected.

The late poet (1926–1997) saw the interview as “a way of teaching,” and he discoursed on a kaleidoscopic catalogue of topics, from poetics to gay sex, Buddhism to politics. A firm believer in the dictum “first thought, best thought,” he was famous (or notorious) for not editing his verse, and the spontaneity of the interview format was well-suited to his desire for undiluted self-expression, not to mention his free-wheeling, free-associating range of interests. The early interviews in this collection, which is graced with detailed and helpful introductions to each piece by the editor, have that loose-fitting, freefalling energy that makes the great poems of the 1950s such a revelation. But in an interview—often aided and abetted by the giddily foolish counter-cultural amateurism of his alternative-press interlocutor—Ginsberg’s occasional wackiness dates badly, looking like mere eccentricity and all but obliterating the intelligence underneath. As his fame grows, he doesn’t fare much better when interviewed by uncomprehending mainstream journalists (although a sparring match with William F. Buckley is amusing). The best material in the collection comes from interviews done for the Paris Review, the New York Quarterly (where he can expatiate on his aesthetics for sympathetic and thoughtful questioners) and, ironically, Playboy (where the sheer length and breadth of the dialogue gives him enough room to stretch out his riffing into full-length song). The interview format does bring out his tendency to absurdly categorical statements and pronouncements with little relationship to reality (as in a spirited but idiotic defense of Ezra Pound’s economic theories on the occasion of the older poet’s death). But Ginsberg was someone who, although more than capable of being foolish, was incapable of being boring. As a result, this is a book that can be profitably mined for many gems, especially when the subject is poetry.

A valuable and extensive collection, intelligently edited.

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-019293-3

Page Count: 624

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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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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