Erudite essays that plumb the hearts of many contemporary darknesses.




An essayist and short story writer returns with a collection of pieces ranging in subject from whaling to a Russian orphanage to J.D. Salinger.

D’Ambrosio (The Dead Fish Museum, 2006, etc.) begins with some thoughts about what an essay is (he views it as a way to figure out what he thinks) and then launches into his thoughtful and provocative essays, revealing a hungry mind and a pervasive, constitutional sadness. In the first essay, the author deals with his attempts as a young man to leave his boyhood home of Seattle, and he introduces some of the darkness (geographical and personal) that inhabits the other essays. Among the topics that he revisits throughout: suicide (attempts in his family, a leaper from a tower on 9/11), the puzzling aspects of experience (just about everything—from decrepit buildings to empty streets; the view from a boxcar he hopped), the fragility of family (his father appears continually), and the abuse of language. He goes off on the prosecutor and the press coverage of the 1998 case of Mary Kay Letourneau, a 35-year-old teacher convicted of having sexual relations with a 13-year-old boy (a former student). D’Ambrosio closely examines the language of the courtroom and the useless indignation that infused much of the press coverage. He considers the vastness of love, and he explores the language of Richard Brautigan, whose prose he does not admire. The author ends with a long disquisition on a poem by Richard Hugo (which and whom he admires). A couple of cavils: It would help curious readers to have publication dates on the pieces somewhere, and although the author chides one of his interview subjects for excessively inflated diction, D’Ambrosio, using words like “emunctory,” “gallionic” and “prodromal,” will send many readers to the dictionary apps on their smart phones.

Erudite essays that plumb the hearts of many contemporary darknesses.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-935639-87-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Tin House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



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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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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