A richly presented, if didactic, survey of Buddhist thought.

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SYMBOLISM IN TIBETAN BUDDHIST ART

MEANINGS AND PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS

An illustrated treatise on Tibetan religious art that explores visual motifs—animals, flowers, geometric symbols, and much else—that convey precepts of Buddhist philosophy.

Huber and Glantz (The Golden Valley, 2016) spotlight artworks from the Senge Buddhist monasteries in Tibet’s Golden Valley, found on furniture, altar pieces, scripture boxes, prayer wheels, and other objects produced over the last 600 years. They present more than 625 images of these pieces, which feature intricate compositions of flowing lines and vibrant hues of red, blue, pink, green and orange. (Huber notes that he finds the paintings so bizarre and psychedelic that he fleetingly wonders, “could the artists be on drugs, possibly LSD?”) The book is therefore a visual feast, and the authors focus on interpreting this imagery in light of Buddhist precepts. They arrange the text with alphabetic entries on specific visual tropes, which include information on aesthetics, folkloric associations, and mystic, philosophical allusions. Thus, the entry on bael notes the real-world fruit’s aromatic pulp and effectiveness at relieving diarrhea, as well as its reputed ability to boost positive karma to bring one closer to ending samsara, the cycle of suffering and reincarnation; its use in fertility rituals; its canonical artistic representation in groups of three representing “the three jewels of Buddhism”; and its symbolization of “the goal of recognizing emptiness and dependency and the connection between cause and effect.” Throughout, the authors’ investigation of symbols ranges from the mundane to the fanciful. Fish images imply happiness, they note, as well as fertility and the inexhaustible abundance of the Buddha’s energy. The lotus flower speaks of “the soul’s path from the mud of materialism to the purity of enlightenment.” A picture of a skull made into a cup filled with boiling human fat is no mere provocation, but symbolizes “the empowerment of the absolute truth of no self and the realization of the ‘illusory body’.” Their extensive discussions of these subjects effectively make the text a sort of primer on Buddhist doctrine, with substantial sections on the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Noble Path, and the Five Precepts. The authors recount vignettes from the Buddha’s life and parables, such as a tale of a tortoise that refused to leave his pond when it dried up (teaching the folly of attachment to worldly things). They reprint a lengthy Buddhist hymn and sprinkle representative mantras throughout. Overall, though, this book isn’t the most imaginative introduction to Buddhism’s esoteric precepts, due in part to the authors’ dry, catechistic tone, and they’re also rather vague about the “applications” of the lore they present, despite mentioning them in the book’s subtitle. Still, many people will discover uses for this book; novice meditators, for example, will find ideas to ponder and phrases to chant; designers of prayer flags (as well as death-metal band posters) will find resonant imagery; and general readers with an interest in Buddhism and art will find encyclopedic information on a significant tradition with much aesthetic appeal.

A richly presented, if didactic, survey of Buddhist thought.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-73146-934-2

Page Count: 107

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2019

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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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