FIEDLER ON THE ROOF

ESSAYS ON LITERATURE AND JEWISH IDENTITY

Elegiac reevaluation by Fiedler, now 70-plus years old, of what it means to be a ``terminal'' Jew, a nonbeliever at the close of a 4,000-year line of Jewish forebears, and how that colors the essays on Jewish-American (Isaac Bashevis Singer) and American-Jewish (Bellow, Malamud, Mailer) authors he's been writing for the past ten years. This is not the firebreathing Fiedler of Love and Death in the American Novel and No! in Thunder, but he does have some fresh ideas in the 12 essays, which appeared originally in journals ranging from Psychology Today to Journal of Modern Literature. All are fairly subjective, tying into his Jewish background, and one—''In Every Generation: A Meditation on Two Holocausts''—is his most intimate writing since 1970's Being Busted. All his European relatives died in the Holocaust. Fiedler himself has eight children, not one of whom is married to a Jew or thinks of himself as Jewish, and his grandchildren have even less idea of their Jewish background—all of which Fiedler views as a ``Silent Holocaust.'' Forty years ago he was the enfant terrible of American criticism, but then, he says, he allowed gentiles—playing up to their post-Holocaust feelings—to give him academic posts that gradually tamed his fire. ``I have shamelessly played the role in which I have been cast, becoming a literary Fiedler on the roof of academe.'' He takes credit for boosting the postwar Jewish literary Mafia (Bellow, Roth, Malamud), now thinks it about burned out and he no longer reads their books. His most brilliant pages speak of Leopold Bloom, the first warm, dark, nonthreatening Jew in Western literature: ``I...had myself to become Bloom before I could understand Ulysses.'' He also has new ideas about the Book of Job, and goes on to show how the Grail Knight, Galahad, fathered by Lancelot with a Jewess, was Jewish, and how the legend itself descends from Joseph of Arimathea, who ran off with Christ's cup after the Last Supper. Passages of academese balanced by open-heart surgery.

Pub Date: May 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-87923-859-3

Page Count: 212

Publisher: Godine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1991

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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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