AN ITALIAN JOURNEY

In this intimate narrative of his travels through Italy, appearing in English for the first time (it was originally published in 1954), Giono brings his novelist’s sensibility not only to the beauty and surprise that is Italy but to the profound questions of why one travels, and what one brings to such an undertaking. French but of Italian origin, Giono is one of this century’s most important novelists. His journey follows the well-trod route from Turin and Milan through Venice, the Apennines, and Bologna. But it is not so much the cathedrals and palazzi, the museums and panoramas that interest Giono as the national character that can be read in the —humanity of a minor road— or the magical encounter between Catullus and Dante and ’scantily clad typists from Milan . . . pedaling water-tandems together with their bosses— on the banks of Lake Garda. Giono hates the behavior of tourists, is bored by the azure of Naples and Capri, and hates politics—but he is charmed by priests on Vespas and loves espresso. We get a little bit of everything in the mix, as well as Giono’s contemplation of happiness, retreat, melancholy, and friendship. Immersed in so much history, Giono reflects that there are only a few historic dates in each year, and —the rest of the time . . . life is without history, when it’s a matter of how to be happy.— Late in his tale, Giono considers that Machiavelli had a lot to say about the nature of power, but it may have been —having his shoe repaired by a perceptive cobbler, or a chat with a very sensible grocer on his doorstep, [that] put him on the right path . . . — An Italian Journey shares that, too. Giono skips over the obvious, goes right for the magic of his subject, and adds his own richly invested insight. His enchanting invitation to the idiosyncratic charms of Italy stands out brightly among the ho-hum abundance on the subject.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-8101-6027-7

Page Count: 188

Publisher: Northwestern Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1998

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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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