THE MOTHER TONGUE

A merry and bright Baedeker to the English language, its history, character, and probable future. American expatriate (to Britain) Bryson proves a witty and knowing guide here, with scarcely a trace of the sneer that spoiled his popular tour of small-town America, The Lost Continent (1989). Instead, a gentle humor, enamored of oddities, warms his discussion of the origins of English, its evolution and current world dominance (so that even in Tokyo, he says, one will find English warnings to motorists: "When a passenger of the foot heave in sight, tootle the horn"). Constantly striving to amuse, Bryson at times seems to be compiling merely a Ripley's of English as bizarre facts stream by in dizzying array: a list of weird American place-names including Dull, Tennessee, Ding Dong, Texas, and "the unsurpassable Maggie's Nipples, Wyoming"; a list of some of the 1,685 words that Shakespeare donated to the language (including "critical," "fretful," "obscene," and "gust"); and so on. But Bryson's passion for words shines throughout, and chapters on how English evolved from Indo-European and Anglo-Norman roots, and on its virtues and vices in spelling, pronunciation, and grammar invigorate potentially dull subjects ("English grammar is so complex and confusing," he points out, "for the one very simple reason that its rules and terminology are based on Latin—a language with which it has precious little in common"). Lively chapters on swearing, wordplay (crosswords, palindromes, anagrams—"mother in law = woman Hitler"—etc.), and the language's bright tomorrow close Bryson's upbeat account. An erudite delight, sure to captivate many.

Pub Date: July 17, 1990

ISBN: 0380715430

Page Count: 276

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1990

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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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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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