Good reading on a variety of topics by an observant band of essayists.

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THE BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS 2014

The current iteration in the venerable franchise, edited this year by essayist Sullivan (Pulphead, 2011, etc.), who contributes a thoughtful introduction on the art of the essay since it was defined by Montaigne.

This year’s collection is as eclectic as possible, considering recent trends toward the self-reverential, and most of the 21 contributions (arranged alphabetically by author) offer some valuable insights and lessons. The majority of the essays are written by players in their own stories, and several are droll and sagacious. “Marriage gives you someone to blame—for just about everything,” writes Timothy Aubry in “A Matter of Life and Death.” In her New Yorker essay “Thanksgiving in Mongolia,” Ariel Levy writes, “Even if you are not Robinson Crusoe in a solitary fort, as a human being you walk this world by yourself. But when you are pregnant you are never alone.” James Wood is “dismayed by the plagiarism of inheritance.” While some of the essays display dry wit, others offer moist emotion. Barry Lopez tells a harrowing tale of cruel molestation. Wells Tower brightly chronicles his visit to Burning Man with his father. Leslie Jamison describes victims of what seems to be an imaginary disease. Zadie Smith considers the rarity of true joy. Paul West presents a lighthearted piece on being introduced at a public lecture. More audacious—and only partly successful—is Lawrence Jackson’s “Slickheads,” a pulsating story of ghetto life that occasionally indulges in unrepresentative vocabulary. Self-effacing Baron Wormser writes an overwrought sketch of Willem de Kooning that recalls the passion of the late John Dos Passos. A pervading theme is loss—of faith, self, youth, life. Other contributors to this worthy and diverse assemblage are Yiyun Li, Emily Fox Gordon and the ubiquitous Dave Eggers.

Good reading on a variety of topics by an observant band of essayists.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0544309906

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014

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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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