THE ART OF SHAKESPEARE'S SONNETS

Close readings that train a brilliant spotlight on Shakespeare's poetic performance, without however quite doing justice to the full dimensions of his achievement. A celebrated and prolific critic, reviewer, and lecturer on poetry, Vendler (The Given and the Made, 1995) offers an illuminating companion for Bardolators of all levels and stripes. Adamant that hers is a work of ``commentary,'' Vendler analyzes each sonnet in turn (they appear in both original and modernized formats), explicating in an accessible manner the structures that organize them, without dwelling on the significance of her interpretations. While Vendler attends dutifully to imagery, and occasionally (too seldom, in fact) to rhythm and meter, she makes Shakespeare's language her central object. She illuminates the sources—practical, philosphical, Anglo-Saxon, and classical—for his multifaceted vocabulary; underlines his love for anagrams, puns, and echoing effects; and highlights the subtle ways in which the sonnets draw on his dramatist's knack for dialogue. Her overall purpose is to showcase the dynamic force of the sonnets as ``speech acts,'' as interventions in ongoing discussions. This approach works best where Vendler can invoke an intimate interlocutor for Shakespeare typically the Young Man or the Dark Lady, considered by critical tradition to be the sonnets' addressees. For example, her discussion of the famous sonnet 116 (which begins ``Let me not to the marriage of true minds / Admit impediments'') convincingly contends that Shakespeare there responds to the Young Man whom he so admired. But Vendler seldom considers how the poet might have been seeking to project his voice into broader discussions. Nor, unfortunately, given her gifts, does she even so much as gesture toward relating her readings to the discussion of Shakespeare-in-history that has lately absorbed not only academic commentators, but also such mainstream writers as Garry Wills. Nevertheless, an immensely enriching account of Shakespeare's complex verse: readings whose perspicuity and accuracy will form a solid basis for many more.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 1997

ISBN: 0-674-63711-9

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1997

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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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