Literate, frank, and sometimes graphic—another essential volume from an essential writer.




A veteran film critic and historian escorts us through cinema history to examine our sexual attitudes and appetites glowing in the dark.

In his latest book, Thomson, the author and editor of more than 20 books about film and TV (Television: A Biography, 2016, etc.), puts on display an array of his virtues as a writer: clear, precise language; vast knowledge of his subject (from books, screens, interviews, and friendships); an open sense of humor; and attitude. Though film history is the author’s principal interest here—and how the movies have affected our ideas about love and sex—he comments at times on contemporary issues, as well, including sexual harassment (Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey, and others) and the current occupant of the White House, whose rise to power he calls “grotesque.” As usual, Thomson pulls no punches and takes no shortcuts. His technique is to focus on specific, often iconic films—the creators, casts, and others involved—and to show how they have influenced the viewing public and the culture at large. Throughout, the author is a genial guide as he moves through the films and personalities, including, among dozens of others, Rudolph Valentino, Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Jean Harlow, Tony Curtis, Jude Law, and Nicole Kidman. Thomson explores not just the on-screen sexuality of his principals, but also their off-screen, “real” sexual identities. We learn a lot, for example, about who was gay, or possibly gay, and who was bisexual. We also see a lot of Weinstein-ian behavior that prevailed long before #MeToo: director Nicholas Ray having sex with the 16-year-old Natalie Wood; other dominant male figures—straight and gay—taking sexual advantage of their power. However, the author also reminds us that viewers are not innocent: We sit in the dark, watching, imagining, and enjoying the sex (he confesses to a number of his own youthful passions for film stars).

Literate, frank, and sometimes graphic—another essential volume from an essential writer.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-94699-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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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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