The travel writer and memoirist Andrew Harvey said of the late Chatwin (What Am I Doing Here?, 1989, etc.) that ``nearly every writer of my generation has wanted, above all, to have written his books.'' This collection of miscellaneous pieces published for the first time in book form will only fuel that envy. There is a little something here for everyone: short stories of smoky debauch, like ``Milk,'' or ``The Attractions of France,'' with its quick slap at racism; singular takes on place, from Timbuktu to the venues in which Chatwin liked to write—a mud hut, a signaling tower in Tuscany; a wicked social history of Capri during the early part of this century, featuring the exotic figures of Axel Munthe, Baron Jacques AdelswÑrd-Fersen, and Curzio Malaparte; an essay renouncing possessions and collecting (an interesting sidebar to his novel Utz); a critique of the ``second-rate'' Robert Louis Stevenson; a history of the doomed efforts of Antonio Soto to bring anarchism to Patagonia; formal essays on nomadism, pilgrimage, and the traveler's experience of returning home. He allows readers into his London bedsitter, though it is evident that he is more at home on the road, persistently drawn to strange landscapes and weird personalities (all the better if they are touched by evil or asceticism). The writing is tense, wound as tight as a clock's spring, the author seeming by turns sinister and superior and often on a very ragged edge, constantly testing his power of endurance, obsessively seeking a measure of himself in each piece. He crawls all over his topics, gets immersed, so much so that he has been labeled by some with his subjects' qualities: fascist, dilettante, deeply strange. But he is too fast-footed to fall for smoke and nonsense—confrontational and oblique, wry and enthralled, uneasy and opinionated, snob, amateur, always original—and specious categorizations simply don't stick. Even posthumously Chatwin remains, in a word, awesome.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-670-86859-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1996

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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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