An ambitious, thought-provoking critique of tragedy in the 21st century.

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THE RISK THEATRE MODEL OF TRAGEDY

GAMBLING, DRAMA, AND THE UNEXPECTED

Wong argues for a new model for tragedy in this debut work of literary criticism.

The stage tragedy was once at the artistic center of the culture, though much has changed in the centuries since Marlowe and Shakespeare gave the world Doctor Faustus and Macbeth. Wong argues that those dramatists succeeded in part because they had a model to work from: Aristotle’s Poetics. Essentially a tragedian’s how-to guide, Poetics has long since been rendered obsolete. Even so, a model is a valuable thing to have, and Wong seeks to provide a new one in the interest of returning the art form of tragedy to its former cultural relevance: “My term risk theatre derives from the notion that risk is central to the idea of tragedy. Risk theatre posits that each dramatic act is also a gambling act. Thus, the tragic occurs when risk runs awry, and risk theatre entertains by dramatizing this risk.” In an age of risk, when society lacks stability and to be heroic is to be a gambler, tragedies must find a way to dramatize the existential wager that people make every day. Wong outlines the structures and underlying theories of risk theatre, exploring how this model uniquely replicates the crises of our time. He also offers a historical overview of tragedy and analysis of the ways the genre functions as a medium both of entertainment and education. The prose here is academic but not alienating, and the author’s passion for his subject comes across in nearly every statement: “I propose that risk theatre prefers dangerous and uncertain settings not because, as some suppose, tragedy is an unhappy art, but because tragedy is a risk art. Because desperate times call for desperate measures, volatile settings increase the appetite for risk-taking.” The average reader can be forgiven for not giving tragedies much thought—that is part of Wong’s point—but the author’s diagnosis and remedy for the current state of theater are imaginative and quite persuasive. Playwrights will take a particular interest, but artists of any medium should consider Wong’s notion of the centrality of risk to the contemporary human condition.

An ambitious, thought-provoking critique of tragedy in the 21st century.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5255-3755-4

Page Count: 378

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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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