ASIMOV ON SCIENCE FICTION

Believe it or not, this 55-piece collection of writings on sf is a first for the prolific, erratic, unself-critical Asimov. Most of the items are from the late 1970s (the two 1962 introductions to volumes of Soviet sf are painfully out-of-date); they include 22 editorials from his Science Fiction Magazine, pieces from Newsday, from encyclopedias, sf fanzines, TV Guide, Natural History (as well as three not previously published); the content is correspondingly varied and variable. In the first section, "SF in General," Asimov takes five stabs at defining sf (the same examples crop up) and still comes up empty-handed ("surely not all sf can be viewed as travel tales"); "The Predictions of SF" contains one essay with some bite (how sf can foresee and help solve problems), and a second that's no more than a list of future possibilities. "The Writing of SF" is all editorials—mostly routine exhortations to budding writers ("under no circumstances should you describe Titan as a satellite of Jupiter"); "SF Fans"—editorials too—might be of some interest to Trekkies and other perennial convention-goers. "The History of SF" has its anecdotes, as does "SF Writers"—on Campbell and his wife Peg, H. L. Gold, Gernsback, Weinbaum. There's also a blurb-style discussion of Bradbury, and a mention of Asimov's mutual-admiration society with Arthur Clarke. "SF Reviews" features Asimov's only serious attempt at criticism: he tackles 1984 from an sf point of view (but why assume it's sf? Orwell didn't) and comes disastrously unstuck. On firmer ground, he gleefully chews up and spits out "Battlestar Galactica" and other "Star Wars" imitations; and wheels out Byron, Coleridge, and Sterne to attack critics in general. Bringing up the rear, "SF and I" more or less describes itself. What it all adds up to is hard to say: cognoscenti will find it repetitive, shallow, and banal; intelligent general readers will be repelled by Asimov's opinionated verbosity and facile attempts at humor. But dutiful disciples of the Master will at least give it a once-over.

Pub Date: April 17, 1981

ISBN: 0246120444

Page Count: -

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1981

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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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