The energy of youth and intelligence and possibility thrum through these pages.

READ REVIEW

IN A NARROW GRAVE

ESSAYS ON TEXAS

A reissue of the 1968 volume of gently connected essays by the author of The Last Picture Show (1966) and myriad other notable works about the Southwest.

Surprisingly, McMurtry’s essays from a half-century ago possess enduring relevance. One of his themes is the end of the cowboy era and the exodus from the ranch to the city and suburbs. He writes at the outset that he wanted an elegiac tone, and he achieved it—witness his final clause in the book: “it can never be again.” Throughout, the author writes about the passing of the old ways: from the deaths of beloved older relatives (Texas was aswarm with McMurtrys) to the evanescence of the small towns to some of the depressing features he observes in Texas cities. San Antonio, he writes, is “the one truly lovely city in the state.” Younger readers may need to consult Google for some of the McMurtry’s references. An early essay, for example, deals with the filming of Hud (1963), based on his 1961 novel, Horseman, Pass By, and even the stars’ names, once iconic, have faded into history’s fog (except Paul Newman): Melvyn Douglas, Patricia Neal et al. It’s sometimes startling in these pages to read about the “new” presidency of Lyndon Johnson, the opening of the Astrodome, and other long-ago events. Occasionally, the 1968 McMurtry could be a little insensitive about how his words might sound 50 years later, as when, attending a fiddle event, he comments about how he saw no pretty women there—and he looked all day. These reservations aside, it is exciting to return to these essays and to hear McMurtry’s young, vibrant voice echoing throughout. One especially memorable essay records a drive he took around the entire state; through his eyes, we see the reality of his themes.

The energy of youth and intelligence and possibility thrum through these pages.

Pub Date: May 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63149-353-9

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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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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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

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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