Bold criticism from a knowledgeable, bright writer who would rather declare than question, speculate, or wonder.

ARTISTIC LICENSE

THREE CENTURIES OF GOOD WRITING AND BAD BEHAVIOR

A collection of previous published essays/reviews about writers ranging from Samuel Pepys to Sinclair Lewis and beyond.

Allen is not a timorous or uncertain critic. The author of a previous collection, Twentieth-Century Attitudes (not reviewed), does not herself lack attitude. For works she likes she employs superlatives: e.g., Boswell’s biography of Johnson is “the greatest biography in the English language.” (Has she read them all?) For works or writers she does not admire, “shit” is the Most Favored Noun. William Saroyan, she writes, was “a world-class, king-sized, copper-bottomed Shit, with a capital S.” Lord Byron, too, was “one of the great shits of history.” Most of these putative reviews (whose original dates of publication should have been noted) first appeared in The New Criterion, which permitted Allen much space to expatiate upon the book under consideration as well as its context. These pieces tend to have a similar organization. For example, in a review of D. J. Taylor’s Thackeray biography, Allen spends most of her 19 pages summarizing and analyzing Thackeray’s life, work, and reputation; she confines her comments about Taylor to a handful of sentences. Books about Laurence Sterne, Wilkie Collins, and others receive much the same treatment in much the same fashion. Her New York Times Book Review pieces are briefer but likewise focused on the content of the book rather than its author’s capabilities or achievements. These also feature Allen’s characteristic certainty. For instance, in an assessment (somewhat altered from its original Times appearance) of Brenda Wineapple’s biography of Hawthorne, Allen declares that high-school students should not read The Scarlet Letter—too difficult—but should instead read The Blithedale Romance, a dark, melancholic novel featuring suicide and disillusion that she bizarrely characterizes as “a delightful send-up of the [Brook Farm] commune and its pretensions.”

Bold criticism from a knowledgeable, bright writer who would rather declare than question, speculate, or wonder.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2004

ISBN: 1-56663-595-0

Page Count: 236

Publisher: Ivan Dee/Rowman & Littlefield

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2004

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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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