Only the newest arrivals to Shelley-land will discover any novelty here.




Better known as children’s authors (In Darkness, Death, 2004, etc.), the Hooblers address the adult market with a biography of Frankenstein creator Mary Shelley based on a very shaky premise.

Shelley’s famous novel somehow cursed the lives of George Gordon, Lord Byron and his four guests at Villa Diodati on the night when Byron proposed the celebrated ghost story competition, the authors declare. “A dark star hung over all [those] brilliant young people,” they ominously intone. Within a decade of that summer evening in 1816, Mary and Percy Bysshe Shelley lost several babies, then Percy drowned; Mary’s stepsister Claire Clairmont gave birth to Byron’s child, who died at age five; Byron himself was dead before he turned 40; and his friend John Polidori, fifth at the villa, was a probable suicide at 25. They may well have deserved their fates, according to the Hooblers’ highly colored rendering, which depicts everyone involved in Mary’s life as “monsters” in some vague metaphorical sense. Much of what the authors assert is unremarkable. In the early 19th century, children often died young, as did adults. People then—and now—were unfaithful to their spouses, became unhappy and killed themselves, possessed character flaws. In other words, those in the Shelley circle were no more cursed or monstrous than the rest of humanity. The Hooblers further strain their biography’s already over-contrived reliance on Mary’s novel by arguing that she became, in effect, Victor Frankenstein when she devoted herself to reviving her dead husband by publishing his complete poems and burnishing his tarnished reputation. This requires the authors to give very scant attention to Mary’s considerable post-Frankenstein production of novels, stories and nonfiction. Its thin thesis notwithstanding, the volume does reveal that the Hooblers have read the standard biographies of the principals as well as their published correspondence, journals and diaries.

Only the newest arrivals to Shelley-land will discover any novelty here.

Pub Date: May 22, 2006

ISBN: 0-316-00078-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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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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