INTIMATE NIGHTS

THE GOLDEN AGE OF NEW YORK CABARET

What the Manhattan nightclub scene was like from the late 40's through the 60's, with notes on the 70's and 80's. Show-biz folk and fans should find this a nostalgia-packed, glittering earful, though many readers will find themselves reading an endless Rex Reed column full of passing celebrities and revues whose identities self-destruct in the reader's mind but who nonetheless deserve the minor monument of this book. Irreverence distinguished the postwar clubs from the prewar, with entertainers no longer satisfied with simply entertaining—they wanted to put a spin, an edge, on their work. Gavin is rather moving about Spivy Le Voe, a squat and lacquered patter songstress who sometimes owned clubs like Spivy's Roof that featured Mabel Mercer and were smash successes; Spivy was called the ``Bulldog Bulldike,'' lost her last lease in the early 50's, wound up doing movie bits, and died at the Motion Picture County Home and Hospital in California. Top acts were Mike Nichols and Elaine May, Woody Allen, Mort Sahl, Lenny Bruce, Joan Rivers, Bobby Short, Dick Gregory, Barbra Streisand, and Bette Midler, while lesser stars Ronny Graham and Paul Lynde shone in outrageously satirical revues at Julius Monk's prestigious cabarets. Monk was a weird North Carolinian who passed himself off as a hybrid Englishman/southerner in Edwardian suits but whose revues at the Up-Stairs at the Downstairs and the Downstairs at the Upstairs were unrivaled—until Monk was replaced by club owner Irving Haber with madly outrageous producer/director Ben Bagley. Gavin concludes with a look at how the top stars began to play supper clubs, and at the emergence in the 80's of new top-dollar acts like Peter Allen and Lainie Kazan. No big audience but a worthy work.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-8021-1080-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1991

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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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SLEEPERS

An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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