Smooth and smart relief for the screen-weary.

IMPOSSIBLE OWLS

ESSAYS

Long-form narratives both diverting and engaging.

In his debut collection, former Grantland and MTV News writer Phillips follows the familiar trajectory of the participatory journalist chasing down new angles on quirky subjects and subcultures—space invaders, sumo wrestlers, the Iditarod, tiger tourism in India—but his work stands out for its refreshing lack of memoir. On the whole, the author’s eclectic travelogues and essays don’t end up being journeys back to the author himself, though his keen sensitivities color each scene, and he rarely hides his feelings about the figures he meets. Phillips has fashioned a calling for himself as an American flâneur, casting out into post-colonial frontiers and marveling at the oddities he encounters from the comfortable distance of unsupervised creative prose. His style blends free-form anecdotes with capsule histories and novellike passages that don’t stop to sort out fact from perception or conjectures. Of his days among remote Alaskans, he writes, “it was such a warm place. I mean, fine, we’re all jaded here, but you could feel it: this fragile human warmth surrounded by almost unmanageable sadness.” Topics begin in earnest but drop away to follow alternate lines of inquiry. For example, a nerd’s-eye view of UFO enthusiasm surrounding Area 51 leads to reveries on the PTSD of otherwise sane people who claim alien abduction, the derelict remains of Route 66, the genocide of Native Americans, and the mysteries of time as expressed in landscape. His biographical sketches of the British royal family speculate on their private conversations (“My dear, these people are beneath us,” he imagines Prince Philip whispering to the queen), and he narrates the life of gifted Russian animator Yuri Norstein in the present-tense omniscience of a film script. Such stylistic pyrotechnics impress less, however, than the flecks of genuine insight the author dredges up from his experiences as well as the sense of a full human mind at large in the world that so many of his recollections approximate.

Smooth and smart relief for the screen-weary.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-374-17533-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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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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