A supremely useful spelling resource for native and non-native speakers alike.


The Complete Guide to English Spelling Rules

A volume examines the quirks of English in a logical, no-frills manner.

In this work, Fulford (To Reach the Sea: The Creation of Bolivia and Its Extraordinary Struggle to Survive, 2014, etc.) asserts that despite the English language’s reputation as a lawless territory, there are certainly patterns to be found and studied. He begins with a brief history of the language and notes the contributions of familiar figures such as Samuel Johnson, Noah Webster, Benjamin Franklin, and Melville Dewey. The author also explains why spelling reform movements have met with varying degrees of success over the years, for reasons both linguistic and sociological. Early chapters may resurrect memories of long-forgotten school lessons on syllabification, apostrophes, plural formation, and doubling the consonant. But the bulk of the text focuses on the workings of individual letters or common letter groupings. The author identifies illogical usages, sharing a student’s understandable frustration with the more difficult spelling groups. For instance, he writes: “Without a doubt, the most annoying spellings in the English language are the ancient igh, ough, and augh. They are thousand-year-old relics that should have vanished centuries ago, but never did.” Near the end of the book, Fulford straightens out potential confusion concerning homographs, homophones, homonyms, and heteronyms. One minor quibble involves formatting issues, whereby some boldfaced passages featured in the margins of one chapter actually refer to text in a different chapter. Nonetheless, the author strikes a difficult balance, as each chapter presents a well-chosen number of examples that fit the patterns discussed alongside notable exceptions. Thus, the guide is not as dry as one might imagine. Fulford wryly remarks on the exceptional pronunciation of the NBA’s Boston Celtics (Seltics, not Keltics) and includes the following historical note: “In the overly quaint Ye Olde Tea Shoppe, the word ye was originally pronounced the. The y takes the place of an ancient letter called a thorn, now no longer used, that had the th sound.” For those who have always wondered about such matters, the mystery is solved.

A supremely useful spelling resource for native and non-native speakers alike.

Pub Date: April 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-9831872-1-9

Page Count: 146

Publisher: Astoria Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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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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