Orr says the greatest compliment for any critic “is to say that you found yourself thinking of his writing the next time you...

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YOU, TOO, COULD WRITE A POEM

Fresh, vigorous, spirited views on poets and their work.

Award-winning New York Times poetry columnist Orr (The Road Not Taken: Finding America in the Poem Everyone Loves and Almost Everyone Gets Wrong, 2016, etc.) gathers 45 essays and reviews that amply demonstrate his irreverent wit and shrewd insights about poets, poems, and poetry readers, “all five of them.” “I don’t like poetry,” he announces at the start, nor does he like poetry criticism, “unless it’s written by someone who cares about criticism almost as much as he cares about poetry.” Certainly, Orr cares about conveying his views in pithy, often elegant prose and—perhaps bringing to bear his training as a lawyer—defending those views with exacting analyses. Despite his obvious erudition, the author is never a snob. Reflecting on the Best American Poetry series, he concedes that the series promotes the “appealingly democratic” idea of poetry “as a community activity. ‘People are writing poems!’ each volume cries. ‘You, too, could write a poem!’ ” But Orr, who celebrates the “virtuosity” of technique in poets such as James Merrill, distinguishes between what the series deems “best” and what is truly great. In “Oprah’s Adventures in Poetryland,” Orr considers a special issue of O, The Oprah Magazine that featured fashions modeled by young women poets. “Only a snob or an idiot,” he admits, “complains when the magic wand of Oprah is flourished in his direction.” Although he applauds her for popularizing poetry, he regrets that nowhere in the issue does anyone consider “the actual experience of reading a poem.” That experience is central to all of his essays: about Elizabeth Bishop, for example, whose work he finds characterized by “curious restraint”; poems by actor James Franco; and Louis MacNeice, whose reputation, Orr finds, is justifiably ascending.

Orr says the greatest compliment for any critic “is to say that you found yourself thinking of his writing the next time you encountered a good poem.” He abundantly deserves that same praise.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-14-312819-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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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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