THE VIEW FROM MT. MORRIS

A HARLEM BOYHOOD

Nonagenarian Sanford, who most recently memorialized his wife, Maggie (Maggie: A Love Story, 1993), recalls his childhood in Harlem in a memoir that is also a bittersweet apology to his father. In 1904, the year in which Sanford was born, Harlem was "still an out-of-the-way community on the island of Manhattan and almost suburban in its quiet, with frame houses—farmhouses some of them—standing alongside newcome neighbors of brick and yellowstone." He lovingly recalls the childhood landmarks of the place (Reid's Drug Store, Nick Stano Shoe Repair, and Bachrach's Ice Cream Parlor), as well as the apartment houses he lived in: the grand Gainsboro overlooking Mt. Morris Square when the family was flush, the much more modest Cabonak that became home after the Panic of 1907 bankrupted his father, and the apartment on West 117th Street, a place that reflected his grandfather's "unadorned life," where Sanford later lived with his grandparents. These recollections, interspersed with vignettes that anticipate his eventual meeting with Maggie, are secondary to the main theme, which is atonement for a thoughtless youthful act that irreparably hurt his father. Sanford's father was a Russian Jew who came to the US at the age of five. He became a lawyer, and though his practice was only intermittently successful, he was always the most affectionate and generous of fathers. Sanford's mother died when he was ten and thereafter Sanford and his father moved in with her parents. But when his father remarried in 1920, his grandfather and his mother's sister turned so against his stepmother that the boy refused to live with his father in his new home. This act of defiance ultimately broke up the marriage, and he understood too late the "sorrow of a wise father for a foolish and wilful son." The past in soft sepia tones, except for the sorrow Sanford caused, which still remains hard-edged and raw. Quiet but affecting.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1994

ISBN: 1-56980-018-9

Page Count: 231

Publisher: Barricade

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1994

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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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