A MOUTHFUL OF AIR

LANGUAGE, LANGUAGES...ESPECIALLY ENGLISH

Burgess has demonstrated his passion for language in his fiction, his essays and reviews, and his multivolumed autobiography (You've Had Your Time, 1991, etc.)—but now, at age 76, he explains it, sharing in this personable yet encyclopedic survey his intimate and extensive knowledge of the "miracle" of it. The author—whose pedagogic career began with teaching illiterate WW I British soldiers to read—argues convincingly that we should all study linguistics, an often dry field that he animates here through rich imagination and vivid style. The title, from a Yeats poem, suggests an ironic dimension, but the material, far from tongue-in-cheek, includes a history of linguistics from Saussure to Chomsky; a consideration of the parts of speech and grammar in several languages; as well as discussions of the physiology of speech ("the buzzes, hisses, and bangs"), the history of the alphabet, and peculiarities of spelling and punctuation. Burgess pauses to consider meaning, context, semantics, and the value of learning many languages, ancient as well as modern, before moving on to an epic survey of families of languages and how they developed and are related, as well as a history of English itself, which he finds "volatile," "hospitable," and "maternal." He introduces Russian and Japanese, savoring the prospect of learning them, and tours English dialects—from the "Received Thespian" of Shakespeare to dialects of America, Australia, South Africa, Scotland, and "closed" groups (feminists, blacks, gays). Slang and euphemism, the ambiguities and instability of language, and the consensual nature of dictionary definitions also come under his gaze. If the role of literature, as Burgess says, is to challenge the commonplace uses of words—to use language inventively and to exploit it aesthetically—then this remarkable book is a rare contribution to the literature of language: a love affair explained and shared.

Pub Date: Aug. 20, 1993

ISBN: 0-688-11935-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1993

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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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