THE RAIN ON MACY'S PARADE

HOW GREED, AMBITION, AND FOLLY RUINED AMERICA'S GREATEST STORE

A workmanlike account of the selling and salvaging of R.H. Macy's, an American retailing institution. Wall Street Journal correspondent Trachtenberg (Ralph Lauren, 1988) starts with a brief history of the business founded by Rowland Hussey Macy in New York in 1858. The real story begins, though, with the arrival in 1948 of a trainee named Edward S. Finkelstein. A gifted merchant, the hard-driving Harvard Business School grad worked his way up the corporate ladder and in 1980 was named the Manhattan-based company's CEO, with baronial offices atop its storied Herald Square flagship (still the world's largest department store). Five years on, the vaultingly ambitious Finkelstein (then 60) resolved to take Macy's private, to give himself a freer hand. Fee-hungry investment bankers and lawyers soon arranged a leveraged buyout that yielded stockholders a handsome premium and left Finkelstein & Co. in charge of a debt- burdened national chain. Owing to overly optimistic profit projections and a series of merchandising miscalculations, the deal was in almost instant trouble. Nor did it help that Finkelstein had contracted a severe case of hubris, placing a risky bet on private labels and installing his unqualified sons in key positions. While a cash-strapped Macy's was struggling to convince edgy lenders and vendors it was creditworthy, two top rivals (Allied and Federated) were taken over by an oddball Canadian named Robert Campeau; he promptly managed his new holdings into bankruptcy, forcing Finkelstein (who had rashly entered Macy's in the bidding contest for Federated) to engage in ruinous markdown battles. The company's mistakes and misfortunes eventually put it in receivership, and Federated (which had successfully reorganized in the meantime) was able to acquire Macy's on decidedly favorable terms, with an embittered Finkelstein obliged to watch from the sidelines. An enlightening postmortem on a consequential LBO, which vividly depicts its human and socioeconomic costs. (8 pages photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8129-2155-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Times/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 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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