Tender, realistic snapshots of life during bereavement.


A heartfelt journal spans the year following a partner’s death from ovarian cancer.

Alden (When I First Knew, 2016, etc.) wrote this in memory of her partner—photographer and graphic designer Catherine J. Hopkins (1940-1996), with whom she lived in Catskill, New York. At that time, the legitimacy of their same-sex relationship wasn’t widely acknowledged. The local courthouse and church both refused to marry the women, but their pastor performed a wedding ceremony at their home in 1991, and Alden considered Catherine her wife. However, she would later feel shunned at a bereavement support group, and her parents, who never approved of her relationships with women, announced that they wanted nothing further to do with her. Month by month, these diary entries from 1996—addressed as letters to the late Catherine—illuminate the first year of sometimes-desperate grief. The author recounts her struggle to accept her identity as a widow: “I don’t know this person who can’t find meaning or pleasure in anything.” Flipping through photo albums unearthed memories of parties and vacations, but early on, it was the painful scenes that tended to linger: cleaning Catherine’s stomach tube, the final moments before her death, and the rituals of washing her body and informing relatives. Looking back, though, Alden could see that, however ironically, “those difficult days were the most intimate.” The journal artfully sets the enormity of loss in the context of everyday activities. Life goes on with a broken toilet to be fixed, a wedding to attend, and an ex-lover’s body to identify. Short, poetic notes on the weather close most of the entries, providing a sense of inevitable forward motion. Catherine’s black-and-white photographs also illustrate the seasons’ passage. By September, the narrative sees the author moving on—selling their house, moving to start a new teaching role, and facing breast cancer unfazed. She resolves to “remember the past with gratitude” and “neither to flee the darkness nor fly toward the light,” instead taking a cleareyed view of life’s mixed fortunes.

Tender, realistic snapshots of life during bereavement.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4575-6298-3

Page Count: 202

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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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 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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