A swashbuckling maritime reminiscence with picaresque edges crafted by a gifted writer.



A young, intrepid adventurer escapes his quirky family to discover a life at sea in this Vietnam era memoir.

Emmy-winning filmmaker and author McCarey (Islands Under Fire, 2012) grew up yearning to escape the dankness and insularity of New York state’s Hudson Valley and the weirdness of his Irish family. His father, whom McCarey calls “the Artist,” was a ne’er-do-well, goldbricking cartoon illustrator and admirer of the “Prince Valiant” strip. The Artist influenced his son with his tales of ocean voyages that happened only in his own head. The author’s kleptomaniac mom, Maggie, taught him how to steal, cheat in school, and ditch class. He pervades this narrative of his call to the seafaring life with a wry and insightful awareness of his own and others’ foibles. Smart and capable but an academic disaster, McCarey decided to go to New York Maritime College, a decision celebrated by Maggie but scorned by the Artist: “He ranted about the waste of my ‘precious god-given talent.’ What talent? I wondered.” Replete with many literary references gleaned from his reading at sea during slack times, the author shows a love of sentence fragments that he deploys to great effect in the tales of his many merchant marine voyages, often to Vietnam, aboard rusty hulks shipping material to the war, which he calls “the Beast.” At one point, he becomes interested in the “intriguing hints of life below the water’s surface: A patch of ocean boiling with baitfish. The purple sails of Portuguese man-of wars drifting on the Gulf Stream or moon jellies pulsing in the South China Sea.” The terrifying dangers of loose munitions in the hold during a roiling ocean, his encounters with colorful characters both at sea and in ports of call, his telling observations of human nature, the mindless routine life aboard ship that McCarey finds amusing—all of this the author recounts with humor and an uncanny ear for speech. He uses various dialects, a stylistic habit that may not appeal to every reader. But this is a minor flaw for an author whose gift is rendering the stuff of life on the ocean into vivid and telling prose.

A swashbuckling maritime reminiscence with picaresque edges crafted by a gifted writer.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-889901-66-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: The Glencannon Press

Review Posted Online: July 11, 2019

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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 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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