Candid, often charming revelations from a host of articulate women.

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ON BEING 40(ISH)

Fifteen women share their thoughts about life’s transitions.

In her debut book, journalist Mead gathers essays by women in their late 30s to early 50s, reflecting on love, friendship, careers, family, dating, and self-image, among many other issues that have become important as they face a challenging new decade of their lives. Although the editor underscores the “divergent voices” in the collection, the majority of the contributors are white, middle-class, successful writers (one, Sujean Rim, is an illustrator who offers a cartoon about giving up skinny jeans). They do, however, reveal diverse experiences: Meghan Daum, memoirist columnist for the New York Times Book Review, has settled into single life and a fruitful career in Manhattan; still, she feels a “current of constant low-grade shock…about how old I’ve managed to become.” KJ Dell’Antonia, editor of the New York Times’ “Motherlode” column, apologizes for not answering an email message because of the many more important tasks (buying bread, snuggling her son) that occupy her time. Essayist Sloane Crosley assesses the changes in her middle-aged face. Two particularly moving pieces concern friendship: Catherine Newman’s chronicle of the outfits she and her best friend wore, beginning in kindergarten, in 1972, and ending in 2015, when Newman cherishes her friend’s tunics, yoga pants, and Ugg boots after she died of ovarian cancer. “I am wearing my heart on my sleeve,” she writes, “my memories like a crazy quilt of loss.” It took a shattered bone for novelist Allison Winn Scotch, who prided herself on being stubbornly independent, to see that friends and family can be extraordinarily caring, “more worthy than you realized, even when you already found them worthy enough.” The essays are interspersed with brief remarks about the biggest surprise, most important lesson, or most salient mantra gleaned from getting older and, the writers hope, wiser. “Everything looks better, feels better, and is way more manageable in the morning,” offers Lee Woodruff, whose husband’s (journalist Bob Woodruff) roadside bomb injury was the subject of one of her memoirs.

Candid, often charming revelations from a host of articulate women.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7212-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 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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