Persistent and persuasive, like listening to that friend with the smartest take on just about any subject under the sun.

THE DISAPPOINTMENT ARTIST

ESSAYS

The true confessions of a cultural obsessive turned author.

After turning his love of SF and detective fiction into an early career as a promising but little-known novelist, Lethem (Amnesia Moon, 1995) burst into the mainstream with Motherless Brooklyn (1999), a tale that married Brooklyn childhood with detective story. Lethem has since repeatedly mined the place of his upbringing in fiction (The Fortress of Solitude) and essays (the New Yorker, Granta), like those collected here. The best thing about Lethem’s nonfiction is his willingness, in the midst of all his writing on culture (since most of these pieces are about books, films, and comics that he loves, and why) to cop to his sometimes elitist and obsessive-compulsive behavior while at the same time giving ample evidence of his knowledge. “Defending The Searchers” is a case in point, a hilarious account of Lethem’s years of relentlessly defending the film to those who thought it outdated and racist, even when he wasn’t sure he liked it himself, being so convinced of its importance in the canon. The title essay, about the roundly despised and now mostly forgotten proto-Beat author Edward Dahlberg, is less successful, perhaps because it’s less personal. This is definitely not the case for “You Don’t Know Dick” and “13, 1977, 21,” which are, respectively, a persuasively honest argument for the greatness of Philip K. Dick and an accounting of the 21 times Lethem saw Star Wars, during the summer when his family fell apart. The masterpiece here, however, is “Speak, Hoyt-Schermerhorn,” a warm and richly researched history of the Brooklyn subway stop that’s a perfectly realized slice of urban mythology, with everything in it from a thumbnail history of the subway system to the cult film The Warriors.

Persistent and persuasive, like listening to that friend with the smartest take on just about any subject under the sun.

Pub Date: March 15, 2005

ISBN: 0-385-51217-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2004

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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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