A playful and often hilarious book full of New York stories, domestic hijinks, and madcap journeys.




A writer documents the wry and zany moments he’s experienced growing up, traveling, and living with his lawyer husband in this memoir.

Smith (85A, 2010) had tried his hand at writing the Great American Novel several times, including during stints in Europe and New York City, but the attempts fizzled out. Undeterred, the native Chicagoan moved to New York again and settled into a comfortable marriage with a securities attorney named Julius. The couple’s house in Brooklyn was invaded by a squirrel that appeared in the cockloft, a protrusion on the roof that houses electrical wires and insulation, and it started trashing the kitchen at night. Smith’s sense of foreboding and drama was quite well-cultivated, and before he had a full-fledged nervous breakdown, the squirrel was driven from the house by a Texan neighbor named Nicola. Julius, who “dexterously negotiates his own double life as a hard-nosed businessman and bon vivant whose tastes are better suited to Honoré de Balzac’s time than Justin Bieber’s,” left the banking world, and the two began a new life in San Francisco. Written in a mix of prose and theater-style dialogue, the book offers vignettes that describe Smith’s childhood as the youngest of seven Irish-American kids in Chicago; his sister’s short liaison with a married British man who shared the surname Smith; and a panicked hashish trip in Amsterdam. Throughout, the more effectual Julius is the perfect foil for Smith’s energetic love of overheard conversations, neurotic dreams and anecdotes, and absurdities in otherwise mundane situations. The author’s singular memoir uses its mix of dialogue and prose to great effect, with laser-focused wit placed on cherished childhood memories and truly fun times in adulthood. The writing can be ultraconcise (one chapter consists of a humorous haiku), but a full picture of Smith’s life emerges in the anecdotes, from 1970s childhood hopes and dreams to a laudable portrait of a gay marriage. The storytelling is lighter on its feet than that of David Sedaris but just as funny. Whether Smith and Julius are bribing contractors or failing to get through Anna Karenina (“My eyes gave out”), the author’s voice never strays off course through wildly different scenarios.

A playful and often hilarious book full of New York stories, domestic hijinks, and madcap journeys.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-64237-216-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Gatekeeper Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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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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