Lyrical and tricky: for serious readers.


In a memoir/essay collection, poet Mullen (Director, Creative Writing/Louisiana State Univ.; Enduring Freedom, 2012, etc.) explores emotional secrets and rupture.

The inability to pin down meaning in words reflects the slippery grasp of identity, and Mullen delves into “autobiography” in these brief, truncated sections, which are playful with language but often opaque. The entries evolve from the first sections’ dreamlike collision of the real (a car crash, a failed love affair) with the “completely unutterable” to a later essay called “Trust,” which explores with affecting frankness the author’s molestation at age 9 by her fencing instructor (“if I think of him his name comes back…immediately and easily: gliding up like air-filled buoys from an opaque and then translucent depth, flashing to the surface like markers for a wreck or trap, or floats from a storm-torn net”). In several pieces, Mullen reworks fairy tales by breaking down their narrative facets to create some intriguing new manifestations. In “Read,” she drastically tweaks “Little Red Riding Hood,” and we learn that Grandmother may have been sleeping with both the woodsman and the wolf (“well, we assume on different nights”). Fairy tales, she writes, often “lead us to normalize a situation both strange and potentially catastrophic.” In “Spectrograms (projected autobiography),” Mullen depicts the constant, arbitrary breakdown of projected images against memory and “strategies for containment.” The author’s deliberate structural interventions may be off-putting and arduous for many readers—e.g., in her essay on being “jilted” à la Miss Havisham, which is intended to relay the layers of unfathomable “complicated grief” therein. Yet in “Trust,” Mullen allows the memory of her shame at being violated by a trusted elder to unfold organically, later in life, juxtaposed with an attempt to heal by taking up fencing again, to marvelously poignant effect. Readers will relish such translucent moments in this prickly work.

Lyrical and tricky: for serious readers.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9844142-8-4

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Solid Objects

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



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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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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