TEACHING A STONE TO TALK

EXPEDITIONS AND ENCOUNTERS

Again, combining metaphorical leaps with side-of-the-mouth aphorisms and plain-song, Dillard celebrates moments of spiritual comfort and unease—not in sustained meditations here (as in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek or Holy the Firm), but in a variety of encounters with animals, stars, vegetation, and people. She watches a gloriously-described weasel ("a muscled ribbon") go for the throat; in the Ecuadorian jungle she sees a captured deer in agony; she recalls a Miami man who was burned horribly twice; and rather than try to reconcile these things with God's existence, she usually accepts them . . . as the way things are, as Mystery. God—or something—is vividly present, however, in a viewing (with screams) of the total solar eclipse: "It was as though an enormous, loping god in the sky had reached down and slapped the earth's face." And God is there in Dillard's frequent Silences: a silent field swirling with angels; the particular silence that fills the room of a man who has devoted his life to teaching a stone to talk. ("The silence is all there is. It is the alpha and the omega. It is God's brooding over the face of the waters. . . .") But: is God there in church, in organized religion? That, again, is one of Dillard's preoccupations. So she encounters a little boy drilled in Fundamentalism, later ponders the anti-Darwinism (unnecessary, she thinks) of Creationists. And, in one of the longer pieces, Dillard sees a bumbling Catholic church service ("God is so mighty he can stifle his own laughter") as analagous to the search-for-the-sublime of the Polar explorers: "What are the chances that God finds our failed impersonation of human dignity adorable? Or is he fooled? What odds do you give me?" Here, however, the metaphor is cruelly belabored. And, throughout, Dillard's sharp images occasionally slide over into elevated greeting-card verbiage, while her salutary undercutting remarks can quite often become precious. Still: a collection of meditations like polished stones-painstakingly worded, tough-minded yet partial to Mystery, and peerless when it comes to injecting larger resonances into the natural world.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 1982

ISBN: 0060915412

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1982

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

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

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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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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