THE WRITING LIFE

From the author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Teaching a Stone to Talk, etc., a mosaic of essays on writers and writing, shimmering here and there with a lovely phrase, a bit of sage advice, but often done in by overwrought imagery and overheated views. "When you write, you lay out a line of words. The line of words is a miner's pick, a woodcarver's gouge, a surgeon's probe"—so begins the text, revealing at once Dillard's penchant for rhythmic repetition and blunt, down-to-earth, Anglo-Saxon language. She's at her best when she keeps it simple—describing her cluttered desk, her pine study (a prefab toolshed), the time her electric typewriter exploded. The physicality of the writer's life—mounds of paper, "refried coffee"—appeals to her and, through her enthusiasm, to us. Good, too, are the little anecdotes of her daily walks, and of other writers' schedules. On the other hand, only the most placid of readers will fail to fidget during the patches of strangely sloppy prose, including banal observations ("putting a book together is interesting and exhilarating"); suffocating alliteration ("the reason to perfect a piece of prose as it progresses. . ."); perplexing inaccuracies ("out of a human population on earth of four and a half billion, perhaps twenty people can write a book in a year"); and (presumably inadvertent) parodies of Melville ("the page, the page, that eternal blankness, the blankness of eternity which you cover slowly. . ."). To top it off, Dillard's technique of juxtaposing apparently disconnected little essay fragments, which in the past has at times led to unexpected richness of insight, in this book leads largely to head-scratching. Happily, Dillard winds up with a graceful essay about a brilliant stunt pilot whose daring twists and rolls provide an apt metaphor for the writing life. This, plus her undeniable authority when discussing the miseries and joys that attend the world of pen and ink, makes this slim volume, if not a triumph, at least worth the read.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 1989

ISBN: 0060919884

Page Count: 132

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1989

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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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