Like much of Dreiser’s fiction, unlikely to be taken up for sheer reading pleasure.

THE LAST TITAN

A LIFE OF THEODORE DREISER

A dry, literal, strictly by-the-book new biography of the Hoosier novelist favored by American mythmakers but excoriated by stylists.

Less than 15 years after the completion of Richard Lingeman’s two-volume Theodore Dreiser (1986, 1990), it’s hard to justify another examination of this unlovable naturalist whose public contentiousness obscured his literary achievement. But Loving (English/Texas A&M; Walt Whitman, 1999, etc.) was determined to write a biography “in which this controversial life was put back into the context of his great literary contributions.” Indeed, Loving has examined every inch of Dreiser’s considerable output and sets each character and plot twist into the framework of the author’s long life (1871–1945). It’s a tedious scholarly task to pursue the story of this last of 12 siblings born to struggling German Catholic immigrants in Terre Haute, Indiana, who left home to seek his fortune in his late teens and transformed himself from a newspaper hack into a determined, disciplined, and finally, with An American Tragedy in 1925, rich novelist. The lukewarm publication in 1900 of Sister Carrie unceremoniously announced a new kind of American literature, closer to the realism of Balzac and Zola: unsentimental, scathing in its examination of real life (high and low), and resistant to facile moral answers. Dogged throughout his career by criticism that his writing was crude, his view of Social Darwinism ugly and immoral, Dreiser was often caught in the contradiction, notes Loving, between “his activist sympathy for the exploited poor in corporate America and his belief in the survival of the fittest.” Overall, the biographer paints a somber portrait of a charmless man who stood by his German roots and hated the British, who could be callous even to friends like long-time supporter H.L. Mencken, and who used women to fulfill an insatiable need for sympathy while exploiting their hard lives to novelistic advantage.

Like much of Dreiser’s fiction, unlikely to be taken up for sheer reading pleasure.

Pub Date: March 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-520-23481-2

Page Count: 525

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2004

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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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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