Lively, amusing, irreverent and often scattershot—in other words, perfect bathroom reading material.




Freelance writer Raftery chronicles his obsession with karaoke.

Though he frequently sang to himself as a child, the author didn’t get his first taste of proper karaoke until 1988, when his family moved to Honolulu. One night, his father belted a drunken version of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” in one of the city’s many karaoke bars. Raftery may not have witnessed it firsthand, but his mother’s recounting left an indelible image in his mind. It wasn’t until years later that his obsession was born. “As was the case with so many other ludicrous pursuits I picked up in my twenties—malt liquor, ska, polyester suits—I was finally talked into karaoke by my friend Mike,” he writes. Raftery got his start at Village Karaoke in the Bowery neighborhood of New York City, where he and his friends eventually became regulars. In 2000, he and Mike created a short-lived public-access show, Karaoke! Adventure!, which featured drunken puppets singing such classics as H-Town’s “Knockin’ Da Boots.” The author’s obsession, delineated in colorful, mostly engaging prose, would eventually lead him to countless karaoke bars in NYC and Japan, where he sought the origins of the phenomenon and endeavored to visit as may karaoke bars as possible. Interspersed with his personal story is a loose-limbed, entertaining history: the invention of the first karaoke machine, the Juke-8, created in 1971 by Daisake Inoue; the story of Sal Ferraro, who, he claims, founded the first karaoke bar in the United States in 1982; the germination of the “Original Punk Rock/Heavy Metal Karaoke Band” at Arlene’s Grocery in NYC; and the 1985 founding of Sound Choice, “one of the largest karaoke-track providers in the world.” This last chapter is the most intriguing, as Raftery provides insight into the talented studio musicians who spend hours charting and recording pop hits note for note, exactly as heard on the original albums. The book ends with the author’s trip to the 2007 Karaoke World Championship in Bangkok.

Lively, amusing, irreverent and often scattershot—in other words, perfect bathroom reading material.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-306-81583-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2008

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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 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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