POOR WIDOW ME

MOMENTS OF FEELING & DEALING & FINDING THE FUNNY ALONG THE WAY

After the death of her husband, a woman finds humor in everyday situations.

Comedy writer Scibelli was 55 when her husband Jimmy, 56, died of Burkitt’s lymphoma after being sick for just about a month. High school sweethearts, the two had been happily married for 33 years, lovingly doting on precious granddaughter Skylar. In Jimmy’s absence, the author managed to find the levity in life when circumstances were grim. Among the topics covered are financial matters such as her husband’s business partnership, her therapist “Mean Jean” and the “posse” of men who handle tasks formerly relegated to Jimmy. Well-meaning friends and relatives surround her, including a couple who name their baby after Jimmy by calling her Liat Zoe (reasoning that “Zoe” means “life” and Jimmy loved life—an argument the author is quick to poke holes in; Scibelli writes, “I imagine him responding, ‘I loved ice cream, too. Maybe some people should name their kid Rocky Road.”). Eventually Scibelli enters the dating scene, surprisingly enjoying herself. Despite the book’s theme, the tone stays lighthearted as it follows the arc from death, to funeral, to burial, to eulogy and into that defining moment when the curtain falls and one is truly alone, sans mate. Although the book is brief, the author strikes a recognizable chord in the post-marriage life of a 50something. The brevity of the text, and Scibelli’s line of work, suggest that a live performance may best bring the material to life—after all, in comedy, timing is everything. Families have their particular nuances, and those of the Scibelli clan are hinted at here. Unlike Joan Didion’s exploration of the loss of her husband, The Year of Magical Thinking (2005), there’s not much depth, which is no doubt intentional, but there is an arc of experience and a final wrenching moment in which the author comes to terms with widowhood, not for a few days or months or even for the length of a book, but through the years. Widows will find comfort, inspiration and laughter here. It’s a humorous, touching read and, in the words of the late Jimmy Scibelli, “Abbondanza!” An amusing, heartfelt look at life after loss.

 

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0983261001

Page Count: 77

Publisher: Pigeon

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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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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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

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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