Much smarter and more stimulating than the typical author’s clean-out-the-closet collection.

READ REVIEW

THE BRAINDEAD MEGAPHONE

ESSAYS

This provocatively engaging collection illuminates the thought processes of one of America’s masters of literary gamesmanship.

Though the magazine pieces that Saunders (In Persuasion Nation, 2006, etc.) has written for the likes of the New Yorker, Harper’s and GQ provide an inviting introduction to the unique stylist, devoted fans of his fiction will find their appreciation (and understanding) deepened as the author analyzes the effects that the writing of others has had on him. Not surprisingly, the Chicago-raised writer turned “Eastern liberal” (his description) expresses affinity and affection for such native Midwestern humorists as Kurt Vonnegut (whom he celebrates as a seminal influence) and Mark Twain, while his geometric analysis of a short story by fellow experimentalist Donald Barthelme provides insight into both Barthelme and Saunders. Especially revelatory is “Thank You, Esther Forbes,” in which Saunders details how his childhood reading of that author’s award-winning Johnny Tremain showed him how and why sentences matter. Yet things are never as straightforward as they seem with Saunders, and what this volume characterizes as “essays” is in fact a typically tricky mix from a writer who resists pigeonholing. Pieces such as “A Survey of the Literature,” “Ask the Optimist!,” “Woof: A Plea of Sorts” and the utopian closer, “Manifesto: A Press Release From PRKA” (kind of the prose equivalent of John Lennon’s “Imagine”), could have fit just as easily into one of his story collections. Longer, reported pieces such as “The Great Divider” (on border immigration issues) and “Buddha Boy” (on a seemingly miraculous meditator) display a profound empathy that resists knee-jerk response. Perhaps the most conventional essay here, and one of the most powerful, is the title piece that opens the collection. Saunders employs “The Braindead Megaphone” as a metaphor for mass media and shows how arguably talented, intelligent individuals have achieved a collective effect of dumbing down the national discourse.

Much smarter and more stimulating than the typical author’s clean-out-the-closet collection.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-59448-256-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2007

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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

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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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