Captivating medical narratives that fit well alongside those of Oliver Sachs, Atul Gawande, Jerome Groopman, and Berton...

SHAPESHIFTERS

A JOURNEY THROUGH THE CHANGING HUMAN BODY

A physician/writer celebrates the dynamism and transformation of the human body and life.

Francis (Adventures in Human Being: A Grand Tour from the Cranium to the Calcaneum, 2015, etc.), who regularly contributes to the London Review of Books and the Guardian, brings well-honed knowledge to these short chapters on the perpetual metamorphosis of the human body. What makes the book fun to read is not only the author’s limpid anecdotes, but also his abiding marvel at the body’s endless expressions. Francis ranges freely and skillfully from the strange to the elemental, such as pregnancy, “a primitive reminder that [the body’s] changes are often beyond control; that bodies have their own rhythms, waypoints and fixed destinations.” The author also explores the body’s acts: sleep, for example, during which vital cerebral hygiene is at stake, and dreaming, which tends to our restless minds and “transforms our fear, shame and dark ambitions into…narratives.” Francis is clearly drawn to curiosities, but he never makes them seem freakish—nor is he judgmental, but rather colorfully frank: Think steroids are the only road to a fine physique? Consider the risks of diabetes, infertility, depression, uncontainable bouts of rage, and wicked acne. These chapters can easily be read as stand-alones—the chapter on jetlag is followed by one on ancient and modern bone-setting techniques—but it’s also satisfying to binge-read a number of them at once. While it might be disappointing to read that “we don’t have much idea as to why we laugh”; appalling to consider that late-19th-century Vatican officials were still castrating young boys for its choir; and infuriating to read that the return of tuberculosis is a direct result of poverty, as are so many other maladies, Francis always makes you think.

Captivating medical narratives that fit well alongside those of Oliver Sachs, Atul Gawande, Jerome Groopman, and Berton Roueché.

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5416-9752-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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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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