Though it doesn’t live up to its influences, this collection loves the form and offers plenty of wit and humorous...




A compilation of laconic, pithy sayings meant partly to guide daily life and partly as a tribute to the rich tradition of literary aphorisms.

In an era of 140-character tweets, Wick (The Devil's Tale, 2006) revisits Twitter’s intellectual predecessor—the epigram, and its close sibling, the aphorism—in a series of sometimes surprising, often thought-provoking, but always brief satirical statements and philosophies for everyday living. With an obvious enthusiasm for language and its history, the author introduces the quasi-restrictive form and its notable fans and pioneers, from the ancient Greeks to William Shakespeare to Samuel Johnson, even proposing that Jesus Christ’s most famous quotations had in them the spirit of epigrams, combining observations and wit to subvert and challenge conventional thinking. In this vein, Wick presents his own aphorisms, encouraging readers to take them at their leisure and in no particular order. The bits share no overarching theme, though they revisit several subjects, railing against vague social and moral restrictions and offering some commentary on the way society engages with faith and religion. All are offered without context (as all good aphorisms should be), but the collection has a derisive tone that appears early and obviously—“If you see a blind beggar kick him. Why should you be kinder than God?”—and saturates the work. However, though cynical, none of the entries fall back on the ease of sarcasm, always shooting for insight or irreverence, sometimes achieving both. And while aphorisms and epigrams often aim to promote different ways of thinking, entertainment seems to be the book’s primary goal, as it regularly goes for easy laughs with simple puns and malapropisms and boasts comical “reviewer comments” on the cover from figures such as Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde and Apollonius of Tyana. The use of such names is no accident, of course, since the text knows its influences and pays respect to each.

Though it doesn’t live up to its influences, this collection loves the form and offers plenty of wit and humorous observations.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-1484051719

Page Count: 162

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2013

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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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