THE MONSTER SHOW

A CULTURAL HISTORY OF HORROR

Frightfully well-done survey of modern horror, eclipsing Stephen King's seminal Danse Macabre (1981) for clarity of writing, if not personableness or depth of idea, and Walter Kendrick's The Thrill of Fear (1991) for cultural savvy. Where Kendrick found horror literature, film, etc., to be primarily a way of coping with fear of death, Skal (Hollywood Gothic, 1991, etc.) stands with King in discerning within the genre responses to myriad contemporary social ills, from economic stagnation to AIDS. Skal opens with a striking symbol of the symbiosis of horror and societal unease: Diane Arbus, photographer of outcasts and misfits, sitting in a darkened Manhattan theater in 1961 watching a rare screening of Tod Browning's notorious horror masterpiece, Freaks. A rundown of Browning's life and of the nearly parallel career of Bram Stoker's Dracula and its many offshoots follows (some of the Dracula material is cribbed from Hollywood Gothic), culminating in the watershed year 1931, when Dracula, Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Freaks burst onto the screen, defining American horror (like King and unlike Kendrick, Skal avoids extensive discussion of premodern horror). While Skal's text is intensely (sometimes forcibly) idea-driven (he finds the 1931 films, for instance, revolving ``around fantasies of `alternative' forms of reproduction,'' responses to the ``dust bowl sterility and economic emasculation'' of the time), he never forgets that horror is foremost a mass entertainment, and he enlivens his narrative with a wealth of enjoyable anecdote and fact (e.g., that Bela Lugosi, who spoke almost no English, learned his lines phonetically) as he covers every aspect of contemporary horror—from EC comic books, Aurora plastic models, and Stephen King to oddball TV horror hosts and the impact of latex makeup. Skal's love and respect for the genre shine through this impeccably researched, lively chronicle: a top-drawer choice for horror fans. (One hundred illustrations—not seen.)

Pub Date: March 22, 1993

ISBN: 0-393-03419-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1993

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

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

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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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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