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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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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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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