Some may find the fragmentary, digressive structure of Zambreno’s book off-putting and repetitious, but it does create a...



A collage of enticing reflections on literature, movies, art, and people.

Throughout this eclectic mix of reflective, short “stories” (some very short) and a few previously published essays, Zambreno (Creative Writing/Columbia Univ. and Sarah Lawrence Coll.; Appendix Project: Talks and Essays, 2019, etc.) weaves elements of her autobiography. She writes about her friends, parents, and dog with as much honesty and courage as she inflicts upon herself, her clothes, and her likes and dislikes. These bits and pieces of paragraphs, more like snapshots or stills than screen tests, spin around like floating objects on an Alexander Calder mobile precariously tied together with ideas and images. Zambreno realizes her writing “is about conjuring up and murdering the girl I was and have allowed myself to become.” Throughout, she demonstrates that she is an intense observer. Whether examining Warhol’s Marilyn paintings or the Barbara Loden film Wanda, the author’s gaze, like photographer Anne Collier’s camera, is “obsessive, sad, sensitive, witty.” The book is highly referential. Zambreno celebrates “old Hollywood and glamour” and some of her favorite actresses—e.g., Tallulah Bankhead and Louise Brooks—and directors, including Abbas Kiarostami and Agnès Varda. The author also discusses philosophers, especially Wittgenstein and Blanchot, and many authors. Zambreno loves the “brilliance and intensity (even wrongness)” of Andrea Dworkin’s Intercourse as well as Elena Ferrante’s The Days of Abandonment: “I inhaled the book, which I heard happens when you read…Ferrante—the books are just that good.” From Gertrude Stein and Kate Chopin to Jean Rhys and Mary Gaitskill, that narrative, with its range of topics and moods, evokes a whiff of Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet.

Some may find the fragmentary, digressive structure of Zambreno’s book off-putting and repetitious, but it does create a syncopated rhythm that is endearing and catchy when taken in small doses.

Pub Date: July 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-239204-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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?