Attached to the notion that all places are stories and all stories places, Mason, at his best, draws an illuminating...

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VOICES, PLACES

ESSAYS

A combination of penetrating considerations of renowned and out-of-fashion poets and keen appreciations of the interplay of landscape and culture.

Poet and novelist Mason (English/Colorado Coll.; Sea Salt, 2014, etc.), who served as the poet laureate of Colorado from 2010 to 2014, avoids an excess of academic jargon in favor of a straightforward style, though occasionally his descriptions lean toward the overwrought and there is a tendency, largely understandable, to worship at the altar of poetry a little too devoutly. The strengths of this collection are the author’s closely reasoned essays and expansive book reviews. Apart from a reminiscence of his years in Greece, which generates thoughtful appreciations of the writers Patrick Leigh Fermor (“a life of inspired insouciance”) and Bruce Chatwin, Mason explores the work of a wide range of literary artists. The best of these approach such notables as W.H. Auden, Ezra Pound, Joseph Conrad, and Robinson Jeffers with fresh eyes and bracing prose. At times, Mason mounts a rigorous defense of the artist in question; at others, he offers cleareyed, warts-and-all analyses. Early on he also recalls the interesting story of how The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam was rescued by a philologist in a remainder bin in 1861 and the process by which it was published and disseminated and became a sensation. Clearly, reading (and writing) is a form of travel and transcendence for the author, who conveys this feeling in erudite, often intoxicating language—though he does get rather inebriated himself from time to time. Mason wears his liberalism prominently, which is fine when not walking the precipice of preachiness, as he sometimes does, but it is hard to dispute his melancholy assessment that “history can seem a bombardment of human stupidities.”

Attached to the notion that all places are stories and all stories places, Mason, at his best, draws an illuminating literary cartography with many fascinating ports of call.

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58988-123-5

Page Count: 210

Publisher: Paul Dry Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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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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