Neither plaything nor conceit, Monninger’s rural idyll is very much a lived experience: genuine, well-earned, and downright...




Monninger (Mather, 1995, etc.) moves upcountry to transform, on a shoestring, a big barn into a home, with the intent of setting down roots—no precious venture this.

It’s a simple, evocative chronicle of the months following Monninger, his girlfriend Wendy, and her son’s purchase of a 6,000-square-foot barn in Warren, New Hampshire. Parts of the structure likely dated back some 200 years; it needed plenty of work, but not so absurdly much that they couldn’t tackle the job on a scant budget, particularly with the help of a local graybeard who helps them get their rural New Hampshire bearings. Monninger is an affable guide to his new home and property and speaks in an unpretentious voice about shaping the landscape, mind’s-eyeing its future configuration and disposition, seeing a wild garden here, and a cultivated one there, and a grass maze in the meadow. The three learn to lay fence and plant a hedge of winterberry, crab, and hawthorn, but are easily distracted by trying to identify the local flora. Everywhere there are mysteries waiting to be unraveled: puzzling whether the saw marks in the beams were pit cut or milled, discovering a swastika hex mark on a basement wall that gives them the willies until they learn of its long history. Keeping the beast of a structure warm proves to be an experience in itself, and they soon learn more than they want to about insulation (and covering all that beautiful interior wood) and stoves. But Monninger is a cheerful soul, and the prospect of umpteen cords of firewood doesn’t depress him; rather, he takes it as an opportunity to learn about the art of woodpiling. It also gives him an abrupt reality check: “Barns are wood, plain and simple, and usually dry wood at that. I’ve read they make a beautiful fire.”

Neither plaything nor conceit, Monninger’s rural idyll is very much a lived experience: genuine, well-earned, and downright enviable.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8118-2974-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Chronicle

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet



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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?