Despite shortcomings in the editorial packaging, the letters provide a fascinating window into a lifelong friendship and the...

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THE CORRESPONDENCE OF SHELBY FOOTE AND WALKER PERCY

Tolson marshals a more comprehensive selection of the 1948-90 correspondence excerpted in his Percy biography, Pilgrim in the Ruins (1992).

Percy's reputation rests on his novels, especially the National Book Award-winning The Moviegoer and Love in the Ruins, Foote's on his titanic nonfiction narrative The Civil War. Because literary orthodoxy beholds Percy as the brighter star, it's surprising how much more brilliantly Foote shines here. Though younger by six months, Foote, who published four novels by age 35, is initially a kind of artistic big brother to Percy, who in 1948 began the first of two unpublished novels that preceded The Moviegoer. Since Foote didn't save Percy's letters until 1970, the first 22 years are one-sided: Foote's expansive, 19th-century epistolary style (he recaps Percy's philosophical and artistic arguments as he refutes them) is nearly detailed enough to carry the monologue, and his passion—for writing, reading, music, food—is more than up to the task. However, better annotation from Tolson (as well as a fuller introduction that would put their works in a sequential context) would have shed some welcome light. Even as Percy's star rises, his letters—shorter, less composed, and less frequent—reveal a more tentative, self-doubting muse compared with the brimming confidence that propels Foote fearlessly into his 1.5-million-word magnum opus. Beneath the deeply abiding fraternal affection of boyhood friends (they met at 14 in Greenville, Miss.) lie diametrical approaches to art. Foote, driven to tell stories because "how a thing happens is more interesting than what happens'' or why, advises the "christian existentialist'' (as Percy ruefully considered himself pigeonholed) to "leave psychology to the psychologists, theology to the theologians.'' Percy saves his didacticism for fiction, while Foote continuously assails his friend with literary advice and books to read—most prominently Proust, whom Percy resists to the end.

Despite shortcomings in the editorial packaging, the letters provide a fascinating window into a lifelong friendship and the writing life.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-393-04031-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1996

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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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