A remarkable collection of hard-earned, melancholic wisdom.

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Until My Heart Stops

Novelist Currier (A Gathering Storm, 2014, etc.) collects four decades of essays in this nonfiction volume.

In the 59 pieces contained in this volume, which Currier says is “as close as I may come to publishing a memoir,” he examines the relationships, jobs, passions, and health problems that shaped the course of his long writing life. From his childhood in conservative, suburban Georgia to his experiences in New York City’s gay community during the AIDS crisis to developments in LGBT civil rights, Currier mines his memory to present an intimate, if necessarily incomplete, self-portrait composed over many years. In “Passing Grades,” a 30-year-old Currier worries that he’s becoming less attractive to strangers on the street. “That Summer” has the author returning to a beach town where he once spent a season with a close friend, now dead. In “Lessons,” he describes coming out of self-imposed celibacy to have an affair with a man who’s married to a woman. These are all morality tales of a sort that an older man might wish he could share with his younger self. In many cases, the author attempts to figure out just where things went wrong—where a mistake was made, what it taught him, and whether he learned enough, at the time of writing, not to make such an error again. Currier is a masterful essayist, adept at lingering over a meaningful detail or capturing a complex emotion in a simple phrase. Of remembering his deceased friend, for example, he writes: “ ‘My friend’ becomes an emptied phrase repeated throughout the years.” There’s also charming humor, as when he describes seeing his first musical, a touring production of The Unsinkable Molly Brown: “it was the most inspirational thing I had ever seen; it was as if I had personally discovered the face of Jesus on the side of a potato.” The mix of voices and perspectives, all from one man at different ages and states of maturity, gives this collection a kaleidoscopic quality, and a multifarious vision emerges that’s simultaneously fractured and whole.

A remarkable collection of hard-earned, melancholic wisdom.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-937627-17-1

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Chelsea Station Editions

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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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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