An inviting and well-stocked greenhouse of applicable concepts from humanity’s artistic and spiritual traditions.

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TENDING THE PERENNIALS

THE ART AND SPIRIT OF A PERSONAL RELIGION

A motivational work guides readers in constructing a rewarding personal religion.

When you get right down to it, the world of the arts and the realm of the spirit are not so distinct from each other. The nouns may be different (painter, pianist, Roman Catholic, Baptist) but, as the author points out, the verbs are pretty much the same: “In the heart, mind and spirit, Methodists do mostly the same things that Muslims do; actors do many things that dancers do. And further, playwrights do many things that prophets do, stage managers do many things sacristans do, and choirs sing inspirationally in both worlds.” This call to switch the emphasis from identities to acts is central to Booth’s (co-author: Playing for Their Lives, 2016, etc.) project, which is to merge readers’ creative instincts with their spiritual ones in order to reach a place of clarity and fulfillment. What follows is a series of ruminative examinations of the various ways that people have tried to access one or both of these ideals—art or God—finding commonalities and revealing the insights that various seekers have uncovered. The elements that keep reappearing are what the author calls the “perennials”: a category that includes vague but customizable ideas like rituals, traditions, and symbols. Booth advises his readers on how to cultivate these perennials in their own lives through the use of certain skills and tools, some of which riff on older, familiar philosophies (the Ten Commencements, the Seven Deadening Spiritual Misalignments). Along the way, the author provides exercises to help readers get into the proper mindset: “Assume a well-intentioned researcher follows you around for a day, observing every action.…At the end of the day, what would she say you believe?” Booth’s ideas are a hodgepodge of New Age and self-help mantras, and his narrative voice is reminiscent of that of a guru—albeit a charming one. While there is sometimes a self-satisfied cleverness to his prose—“How often do classical violinists seek to identify themselves with country fiddlers? Do mullahs get a turn in a Methodist pulpit?”—more often his approach is accessible and illuminating. He manages to present his findings not as some secret or mystery to which he holds the key, but rather as the intellectual heritage of humankind that all have access to if only they frame it in the correct way. There are moments when his personal beliefs creep onto the page in a way that feels off-putting—he’s very down on American public schools and the concept of Utilitarianism—though this is a work from which it is easy to pick and choose ideas that sound good to readers. Books of this genre are often reiterative of one another, and readers’ preferences usually have more to do with presentation than content. Booth—whose personal anecdotes seem to allude to a learned, well-traveled man of health and leisure—deftly delivers his notions, and his words read as common-sense advice freely given. The book should appeal to those looking for a soothing purveyor of ancient wisdom.

An inviting and well-stocked greenhouse of applicable concepts from humanity’s artistic and spiritual traditions.

Pub Date: May 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-578-48278-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Betteryet Press

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2019

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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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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