An impassioned, sometimes prickly tribute to the poet’s art.

SYNTHESIZING GRAVITY

SELECTED PROSE

The Pulitzer Prize–winning former U.S. poet laureate considers her craft and inspirations with a smirk and the occasional dash of snark.

The essays and reviews in Ryan’s (Erratic Facts, 2015, etc.) first prose collection reveal a careful poet who’s also careful not to take her job too seriously. Quite often, she responds with bemusement—if not outright laughter—at the confusions and ironies in work she admires, laughter being “one of the body’s natural responses to shock.” Marianne Moore’s abstracted verse is “at once ridiculous and immensely cheering”; Wallace Stevens’ poems “have a hilarity that isn’t funny, a joie without the vivre”; Annie Dillard is “hilarious...the terrible child experimenting upon the innocent parental flesh.” Reading the puckish Stevie Smith, Ryan declares, “it gives me so much hope, to see language get pantsed.” None of which is to say that the author is dismissive of understanding poetry in sophisticated ways; the book is rich in close readings of works by Smith, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, and Philip Larkin. Plus, her choices of metaphor are delicious: Moore’s inscrutable lines land “in one’s lap like inedible melons,” and she herself is a “pig for pleasure.” However, she also cultivates a sensibility of not wanting to delve too deeply into poems lest their magic be spoiled. That’s reasonable, up to the point where she takes it out on other writers, from a gentle chastisement of those who keep notebooks to a more aggressive field report from a writers’ conference, in which she felt an “abstract contempt for everyone in attendance.” Ryan’s love of poetry is palpable and intense, but she approaches writing about it as if it were, well, a bit of a joke. When it comes to poetry, she writes that “in order to listen we must be a little bit relieved of the intention to understand.”

An impassioned, sometimes prickly tribute to the poet’s art.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8021-4818-6

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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