ARTHUR FIEDLER

PAPA, THE POPS, AND ME

The daughter of Boston's beloved maestro transposes the familiar laments of a star's adult child into the world of classical music. In the course of his 50-year tenure as conductor of the Boston Pops orchestra, Arthur Fiedler emerged as a true celebrity. Beyond his musical flair and dashing appearance, he exhibited a knack for marketing. He made his reputation by organizing America's first annual series of free outdoor symphony orchestra concerts on Boston's Charles River Esplanade. On taking over the Pops in 1930, he built a national following, and in his last decades, the PBS ``Evening at Pops'' television broadcasts cemented his fame. The Arthur Fiedler whom the public adored, however, turns out— surprise!—to have distanced himself from his family, immersing himself in his career and continuing to live the high life while on tour. When at home, he would show himself to be misanthropic, miserly, and alcoholic. Fiedler fille details in a clear style how this behavior impeded her personal growth. After a withdrawn, troubled childhood, she came to have difficulties of her own with alcohol and searched into adulthood for a father figure—for instance, dating musicians, some ``hand-picked'' by her father, all with forceful, dominating personalities like his. Her complaints against Fiedler päre seem valid, but the dysfunctional Fiedler family nevertheless strikes the reader as having been more typical of the mid-century upper middle class than traumatic in the ``Daddy Dearest'' vein. More intriguing sections of her book narrate her family's singular accomplishments: her grandfather's emigration from Austria to join the Boston Symphony, her father's navigation of the tides of cultural politics and of nationalist sentiment during WW I, and his endeavors to prove his mettle as a serious artist. That he loved dogs, fire engines, and women while hating children is, in the end, relatively uninteresting. Only Fiedler enthusiasts and habituÇs of the classical music scene will want to wade through the run-of-the-mill pop psychologizing featured here.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 1994

ISBN: 0-385-42391-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1994

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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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SLEEPERS

An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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