A teacher’s help would be required for students to find this book useful.

ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE

A MICROCOSMIC USAGE HANDBOOK

A chatty grammar manual.

Acknowledging that there are many books imparting grammar and usage rules, Cioffi (Writing Director/Baruch Coll.; The Imaginative Argument: A Practical Manifesto for Writers, 2005, etc.) set out to do something different: “provide a human voice chatting about those rules, one that used real-world rather than manufactured language as its model, and one that tried to show how using language carefully can make a difference in terms of human interactions.” The author’s 300 real-world samples come from newspapers (USA Today and the International Herald Tribune recur) and magazines (Sports Illustrated, the New Yorker) from Dec. 29, 2008, a day he chose “because of its very ordinariness.” Although some of the sentences refer to movie stars, bank failures, sports events and other trendy topics, the selections, taken out of context, are sometimes more confusing than the grammar rules they’re supposed to exemplify. Cioffi’s goal of being chatty is amply fulfilled, but there’s a disconnect between that breezy tone and his explanations of grammatical points. Although the author says he assigns the book in a first-year writing class, his audience seems to be fairly sophisticated working adults (don’t correct your boss’s grammar, he advises) who may feel anxious about how others “judge and categorize” their social class, education and intelligence by their grammar proficiency. Besides six chapters covering fundamentals of grammar—parts of speech, punctuation and diction—Cioffi includes a glossary of 50 key terms that he already has defined in the text. One appendix debunks 15 grammar myths, many of which can be boiled down to the assumption that grammar doesn’t matter in the age of tweets and self-publishing; another appendix offers hints about how to use the book as a classroom text.

A teacher’s help would be required for students to find this book useful.

Pub Date: March 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-0691165073

Page Count: 392

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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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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