An ambitious recovery account that entertains but fails to focus on addiction or redemption.

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Happy Chasing Happy

AN AIMLESS HIGH TO HAPPINESS

A young mixed martial arts fighter shares his struggles in and out of the ring in this candid memoir.

Isip (10 Stacks to Success, 2014) fell in love with mixed martial arts when he was in junior high school in New Jersey. By 2001, he was a trained fighter and won his debut match. The training was brutal, and the emotional roller coaster of being a competitor often left Isip drained. But his commitment to the sport stemmed from another battle: his struggle with alcohol and drug abuse. As a teenager, Isip experimented with binge drinking, ecstasy, and other drugs, which never ended well. He and his friends invented something called Sexticy, an insane mixture of Cisco, Stacker pills, and Viagra. One particularly bad bender on Sexticy led to Isip’s brother intervening, but it was not enough of a wake-up call for the fighter. He then went to Miami and was arrested, an experience he shares in humiliating detail. Eventually, a dark depression settled over Isip, and a suicide attempt prompted him to reevaluate his life choices. The volume includes comic-book-like illustrations and photographs, enhancing the ease of the story. Set in a teenage New Jersey wasteland, Isip narrates scenes with fun dialogue, pop-culture references (his talk of pills includes an illustration of Jessie Spano’s meltdown on the TV series Saved by the Bell) and lots of Jackass-worthy action. But he mixes this narration with lectures on the effects of drugs and alcohol, including a condemnation of antidepressants that ignores the many people taking these pills who do not turn into addicts. His meditations on happiness, per the title, come too little too late. By far, the book’s best sections involve Isip as a fighter, describing the ego and arena of mixed martial arts with great passion. A straightforward narrative of drug addict to prize fighter would have made for a less manic memoir.

An ambitious recovery account that entertains but fails to focus on addiction or redemption. 

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68301-638-0

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Tate Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2016

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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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