DEAR WRITER, DEAR ACTRESS

THE LOVE LETTERS OF ANTON CHEKHOV AND OLGA KNIPPER

A moving and intimate epistolary record of the complex relationship between the great Russian playwright and the actress who eventually became his wife. Chekhov (18601904) already had an advanced case of tuberculosis when he met Knipper (18681959) in the fall of 1898. She was rehearsing the role of Arkadina in his revised version of The Seagull for the newly formed Moscow Art Theatre; the production's success—and her personal triumph in it—meant that she spent the theater season in Moscow while he, under doctor's orders, spent the long Russian winter in the warmer climate of Yalta. These separations, which continued after their marriage in 1901, made letters their primary form of communication for months at a time. The couple's very different personalities stand in sharp relief: Knipper's lively epistles, which feature evocative descriptions of the Russian landscape and some astute analysis of her lover's personality, reveal an affectionate, frank, impulsive woman who wrote what she thought and frequently expressed frustration with Chekhov's elusiveness. The playwright's missives are witty, charming, and infuriatingly oblique about his feelings, although his post-wedding correspondence is noticeably warmer. Benedetti (Stanislavski, 1988) has edited the letters to focus on the pair's personal relationship; frequent ellipses suggest that a good deal of information about Moscow Art Theatre rehearsals and internal politics has been omitted, possibly to avoid overlap with The Moscow Art Theatre Letters, which he also edited. Interesting though the couple's emotional ups and downs are, more material on their shared professional life—he wrote Masha in Three Sisters and Ranevskaya in The Cherry Orchard for her—would have made this even better. Nonetheless, this correspondence gives us wonderfully vivid self-portraits of two important Russian artists and a poignant chronicle of love struggling against the handicap of distance and the ravages of terminal illness.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 1997

ISBN: 0-88001-550-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1997

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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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