Could have been funnier, should have been kinder.

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WIDOWER’S HOUSE

A STUDY IN BEREAVEMENT (OR HOW MARGOT AND MELLA FORCED ME TO FLEE MY HOME)

The memoirs of an acidic curmudgeon and widower.

After his beloved wife Iris Murdoch died, Bayley (Iris and Her Friends, 1999, etc.) was besieged by well-wishers offering assistance and companionship. Margot and Mella, the two most irrepressible of the gaggle of helpmeets, zipped into his life with a feminine force that rendered the man helpless to avoid their tireless ministrations. One slipping innocently into his bed, the other staging a full-frontal seduction, Margot and Mella riotously overturned the author’s nascent widower’s lifestyle of reclusive seclusion with their zealous determination to help one who does not want to be helped. The ingredients for a delightful farce or comedy of manners lie in bountiful supply within this material, but Bayley fails to take advantage of these possibilities with his snide commentary. Perhaps too honest in his reactions, he assails the reader with his ambivalent distaste for this humorously affable pair. It’s an authorial blunder that casts him as the unlikely villain of his own life story even when he does admit his own culpability in the soap opera around him. Couple this cranky tone with a literature professor’s overenthusiastic affection for literary allusion, and the result distills itself from a heartwarming and breezy consideration of life as a widower into a bitter diatribe against two generous (though perhaps needy) souls. Mercifully, Bayley’s humanity outshines his cantankerousness on occasion, as when he ponders over his life without Iris and finds new affections with his old friend Audi. His love for Iris is plangent and deep, filled with memory and their shared history; his love for Audi is fresh and budding, filled with possibilities and regeneration. Still, since you never know when this crocodile will snap, you’d better stand clear altogether.

Could have been funnier, should have been kinder.

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-393-02561-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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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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