A largely unfocused and insular journey through Bonomo’s experiences with pop music.

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An unconventional investigation into the ways in which music influences our lives.

Primarily focusing on the formative years of his adolescent musical education, roughly the late 1960s through the 1980s, music journalist and biographer Bonomo (Creative Nonfiction/Northern Illinois Univ.; This Must Be Where My Obsession with Infinity Began, 2013, etc.) presents a mishmash of personal stories, musical history, and criticism, which more often than not reads like stream-of-consciousness musings rather than argumentative or observational reflections. The tone and style of the essays sometimes veer into near free association, in which paragraphs transition based on a whim. One particular chapter, for instance, bounces among the song-identifying app Shazam, the Mary Tyler Moore Show theme song, and Snapchat, all tied together by a tenuous statement on the ephemeral natures of music and technology. In a separate essay, this penchant for odd juxtapositions also connects the 1963 suicide of Sylvia Plath in London with the Beatles recording at Abbey Road. Bonomo also infuses his chapters with vague, out-of-context quotations from such figures as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jean-Paul Gaultier, and Orson Welles, further muddying his point of view. For all their unorthodox and diaristic styles, Bonomo’s essays do offer moments of insight. In one, the author examines the peculiar history of music as it relates to the “tensions between Saturday night’s excesses and Sunday morning’s sober inventories,” from Delta blues to Green Day. Moreover, Bonomo’s passion for his subject matter is undeniable, and the verve with which he writes about music is endearing. One only wishes Bonomo had focused more on clarifying and highlighting these moments over extraneous and misleading digressions. There are plenty of cultural touchstones to pique the interest of readers of a certain age, but the author provides scarcely enough groundwork to keep general readers interested.

A largely unfocused and insular journey through Bonomo’s experiences with pop music.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-59376-662-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Soft Skull Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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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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