Five stylish women in five vignettes-cum-case studies: how they lived, how they dressed, and how the closet reflects the soul. Canadian biographer Fowler, author of quartets and quintets of women's history (Below the Peacock Fan: First Ladies of the Raj, 1987, etc.) groups those old stylish chestnuts—Marlene Dietrich, the Duchess of Windsor, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis—with a pair of lesser-known clothes horses,Empress Eugenie Bonaparte of France, wife of Louis Napoleon; and Belle Epoque writer and socialite Elinor Glyn. All five, Fowler states, ``wrote their life stories in fabric and feathers and furs.'' After a beginning academic essay defining style as ``a mode of expression which is laudable in its order, conspicuousness, consistency and cohesion of separate elements,'' she launches into five tales that utulize the rather less academic device of inhabiting the minds of the subjects: ``Now, she could feel his hot, heavy-lidded gaze on the black serge stretched taut across her breasts.'' Each heroine's wardrobe is described vis-Ö-vis her social, political, psychological, and sexual environment. Clothes are a metaphor: Jackie's pillbox hats were crowns for America's royalty; Eugenie's huge crinolines (ten feet of fabric at the hem) represented the ``sham'' that was the Second Empire in France—solid on the outside, but with no stability. If you can get past all the socially relevant chitchat, there's the good stuff: the clothes and jewels. These women had closets bigger than houses; they traveled with hundreds of trunks; they were never far away from servants with ironing boards. And best of all, they were self-invented and self-dramatizing. Elinor Glyn had five tiger skins, each one given to her by a different lover. Jackie wore evening gloves with 20 buttons. Dietrich had a swansdown coat with a four-foot train made out of 2,000 dead birds. Cruel and not environmentally correct, yes. But a nice dose of vicarious opulence for those of us who buy our duds at the Gap.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 1996

ISBN: 0-312-14757-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1996

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


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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