For the die-hard fan.

READ REVIEW

WRITING WITH INTENT

ESSAYS, REVIEWS, PERSONAL PROSE: 1983-2005

Frothy, courtly occasional pieces from Booker-winning Atwood (The Blind Assassin, 2000, etc.).

The Toronto-based novelist is a powerful booster of her fellow Canadian literati, whom Americans tend to lose in translation. Here, she showcases some of the reviews and comments published over the last two decades regarding important Canadian fiction—from Margaret Laurence’s A Jest of God, Lucy M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, and Yann Martel’s Life of Pi to the lifetime achievements of Mordecai Richler and Carol Shields. Atwood scrutinizes them all. Other pieces describe writing her dystopian masterpiece, The Handmaid’s Tale, while living in west Berlin and banging “on a rented typewriter with a German keyboard,” and her fascination with the ill-fated 1845 Franklin Expedition, whose crew perished of lead poisoning while seeking the Northwest Passage to the Orient. (She made a “literary pilgrimage” to Beechy Island to revisit the expedition’s remains.) The reviews are less interesting, since Atwood writes only about books that she likes and admits to being a “stroker” (who rewards good performance) rather than a “spanker” (who punishes bad performance). A few autobiographical essays evoke her more prickly feminist side and will arrest the attention of her devout readers: “That Certain Thing Called the Girlfriend” proclaims women to be at least as interested in other women as in men, and “Laughter vs. Death,” sparked by research she did for Bodily Harm, offers her appalled reflections on the pornography industry. In a playful review of Robin Robertson’s Writers’ Stories of Their Public Shame, Atwood records her answer when a Mexican TV interviewer asked whether she considered herself feminine: “What, at my age?” she blurted out. She also weighs in on Gabriel García Márquez, Antonia Fraser, Marina Warner, Angela Carter, H.G. Wells, and Ursula K. Le Guin. Atwood is always a gracious writer, stately and polished, though the public persona exemplified here is not nearly as fascinating as her darkly enigmatic literary side.

For the die-hard fan.

Pub Date: April 19, 2005

ISBN: 0-7867-1535-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2005

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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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