Hardly groundbreaking comedy material, but the book will appeal to Gaffigan’s fans. Others can stick to his usually funny...

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DAD IS FAT

Comedian Gaffigan delivers zany stories from the front lines of urban parenting.

Living in a two-bedroom New York City apartment with five kids and an amazingly “fertile” wife, frumpy funnyman Gaffigan may have found, in a sense, the perfect domestic situation for a comedian trolling for new material. His chaotic family life serves as the basis for this nonfiction debut, and readers can assume that he’ll reap an endless supply of comedic material from this situation for years to come. Branching out from his usual wheelhouse jokes involving subjects like bacon or McDonald’s hamburgers, the author’s G-rated sense of humor expands into new parental/responsible adult territory. Topics include his wife’s obvious love of pregnancy, the cringe-worthy question of circumcision, the demented universe of children’s literature and the challenging adventures of raising kids in the city. He gets much mileage out of the sort of exaggerated mock cruelty that comedian Louis C.K. revels in, only Gaffigan is a bit less mean-spirited. His prose style resembles that of most comedians who write books: The sentences are simple, short and punchy, with much the same rhythms of delivery as their stand-up counterparts. But as the book progresses, the rapid-fire assault of jokes and punch lines can seem strained, and Gaffigan sometimes misses his targets and pulls up lame, much like a heavyweight boxer who comes out of his corner scoring points early but punches himself out halfway through the fight. Later in the book, when he compares a 3-year-old with insomnia to a heroin addict going through withdrawal, you know you’re beginning to witness a once-effective formula running itself into the ground.

Hardly groundbreaking comedy material, but the book will appeal to Gaffigan’s fans. Others can stick to his usually funny Twitter feed.

Pub Date: May 7, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-385-34905-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown Archetype

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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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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