A bracing, essential engagement with the ramifications of our lives before the small screen.

TELEVISION

A BIOGRAPHY

The article in the subtitle of this book is telling. The eminent film writer offers not a definitive or comprehensive history of TV but a personal celebration of his particular fascinations and a provocative consideration of the ways in which the very mechanics of the medium affect the audience, both as individuals and as a mass culture.

In chapters often focusing on slightly left-field topics, including the problem of “role models” and the psychological effects of the commercial break, Thomson (How to Watch a Movie, 2015, etc.) organizes the book thematically rather than chronologically. This organization suits his allusive, digressive style, as he analyzes the ways in which TV’s unique qualities—endless variety, constant availability, and insidious tendency toward narcotized reassurance, to name a few—shape and contextualize viewers’ understanding of the world. By the author’s reckoning, the influence of TV on human experience is so profound that we perch on a precipice of complete unreality (or virtual reality), existing only in relation to the screen; in his formulation, the “elephant in the room” of TV’s primacy has “become the room.” Thomson’s insights are typically unsparing and acute, and while many of the implications of his argument are troubling, his love and admiration for the best of TV—Breaking Bad gets high marks, and no Thomson fan will be surprised to find multiple appreciations of Angie Dickinson—are palpable. When it suits his purpose, the author delves into more straightforward histories of institutions such as PBS and the BBC, and he provides memorable sketches of figures from Lucy Ricardo to Larry David (“David has as confused an attitude to the public as Charlie Chaplin had. But like Charlie he has found release and self-love in performing. He is maybe the most fascinating awful person on television”), but this is not merely a reference book. It’s a love letter and a warning, beautifully written and deeply disquieting.

A bracing, essential engagement with the ramifications of our lives before the small screen.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-500-51916-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 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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