KEEPERS OF THE FLAME

LITERARY ESTATES AND THE RISE OF BIOGRAPHY

A surprisingly original study of the literary estates of many famed writers, and a look at the tangled relationship between estate management and biography. Hamilton wrote the strong Robert Lowell (1982) and the admirable In Search of J.D. Salinger (1988). Estates that Hamilton looks into include those of John Donne the Younger, Shakespeare, Marvell, Milton, Pope, Boswell, Robert Burns, Byron, Dickens, Tennyson, Swinburne, Robert Louis Stevenson, Henry James, Hardy, Kipling, Joyce, Eliot, and Sylvia Plath. John Donne made no mention of his poems in his will and, thinking them a young man's ``evaporations'' and ``vanities,'' would have preferred that these sins be destroyed. Following his death, Shakespeare's plays were edited by two fellow actors and ``set forth according to their first originals,'' as these friends put it, saving eighteen of Shakespeare's plays from oblivion (including King Lear, The Tempest, and Macbeth) and several others, according to Hamilton, from being handed down in ``irretrievably corrupt'' texts. While poets' posthumous papers gave rise to biography, Dr. Johnson wrote his hasty Lives of the Poets to consolidate publishers' copyrights on various posthumous materials. Meanwhile, Boswell took down Johnson's table talk for his monumental Life of Johnson (Macauley later damned Boswell as a drunkard, pipsqueak, and lickspittle), then left a hoard of journals and Boswelliana that engendered the great Boswell papers saga. Hamilton follows the styles of biography as one mode rises over the body of earlier modes: the Victorian biography, for instance, reflects the newly emerging Romantic concept of the artist. Dickens writes long letters to his future ``beeograffer,'' John Forster. Joyce appoints his benefactress Harriet Shaw Weaver as his literary executor; she also inherits his mad daughter. Eliot directed that there should be ``no biographies,'' and his estate will not go public until 2015. Ted Hughes' trial-by-gravestone bequeathed him by Sylvia Plath is quite moving. As a commentary on literary mortality, and on biography and trumpery, this is book is a treasure.

Pub Date: April 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-571-19843-0

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1994

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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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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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