Another subtitle might have been Healthful Snacks, for these bite-size pieces are both enjoyable to ingest and good for you.

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WIND SPRINTS

SHORTER ESSAYS

A master of the essay form returns with a collection of brief pieces spanning nearly 20 years, 1996 to 2015.

Most of the offerings are indeed quite short, a few pages at most. Former American Scholar editor Epstein (A Literary Education and Other Essays, 2014, etc.) sticks to straight chronology with only a few deviations for, one infers, circumstance’s sake. A few themes emerge. One is language: there are locutions he hates (“multitask,” “focus,” “branding”), and he believes in the significance of the sentence for writers. Another is technology: Epstein is the proud owner of a flip phone, which he rarely uses, and in several essays, he snarls about the ubiquity and abuse of the smartphone. Books (of course): he writes about his smallish library (for a bibliophile) and admits he’s pruned his collection a couple of times. He also writes about books he loves (In Search of Lost Time) and admits to some famous ones he hasn’t read (The Brothers Karamazov and the Bible, though he began reading it all in 2012). Politics: his conservative views emerge most often in context, but he does have one amusing essay imagining that two children of Alexander Portnoy are Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner. Writers he likes: Henry James and Proust pop up frequently, as does—a bit of a surprise—John O’Hara. Epstein tells us about his routines as a writer, his pride in being an author, and his anxiety about who should receive one of his author’s copies (he has two essays about this). Annoyances: he cancelled his New York Times subscription after 50 years, and he hates the custom of restaurant servers declaring their names. Personal improvement: he announces that he’s trying to quit swearing and to drop the word “yeah” from his conversation. He rarely mentions his family.

Another subtitle might have been Healthful Snacks, for these bite-size pieces are both enjoyable to ingest and good for you.

Pub Date: April 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-60419-100-4

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Axios Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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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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