WRITING LIVES IS THE DEVIL!

ESSAYS OF A BIOGRAPHER AT WORK

The ins and outs of the biographer's craft, by a man who has penned several (Fox at the Wood's Edge, 1990. etc.—not reviewed). Biography, it seems, is an enterprise fraught with dangers, and in these 13 essays, Christianson (History/Indiana State) tackles them all. Most worrisome is the biographer's relation to his subject: Adversary? Advocate? Christianson argues that the biographer must identify with his subject—even if the subject happens to be Adolf Hitler. A connected issue is that of privacy: While Christianson notes that Barbara Tuchman and many others have staunchly defended the limits of investigation, he points out that ``the biographer is necessarily intrusive.'' These edgy topics and others are illustrated by the author's experiences while writing lives of Sir Isaac Newton and Loren Eiseley, both of whom were difficult subjects (Christianson describes Newton as ``an emotional eunuch,'' and says that Eiseley's autobiographical writings were fraught with extensive dissembling). As for the biographer's tools, the most important is research; the author wittily recounts the pitfalls of interviewing the living (like Eiseley's widow, who reminded Christianson of Dickens's Miss Havisham) and of resurrecting the dead (usually by threading one's way through labyrinthine archives, where a friendly librarian makes all the difference). Also discussed are writer's block, agents, book titles, fan mail, the future of the craft, and the sublime pleasures of handling a piece of the past (in England, Christianson momentarily holds—and ponders pilfering—a lock of Newton's hair). Top-heavy with Eiseley and Newton anecdotes, limiting the popular appeal—but a must-read for biographers everywhere.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-208-02382-8

Page Count: 248

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1993

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more