CHRISTIAN DIOR

THE MAN WHO MADE THE WORLD LOOK NEW

European-celeb biographer Pochna writes a serviceable history of Christian Dior on the 50th anniversary of the ``New Look.'' In February 1947 Dior launched a postwar fashion revolution, dubbed the New Look by Harper's Bazaar. Dior, 42 when the first collection was shown, was a late bloomer. Not fashionable-looking at all, he was a chubby, bald man (he once escaped a Chicago train station filled with angry demonstrators awaiting his arrival because he didn't resemble anyone's idea of a fashion arbiter). He was born in Normandy to upper-middle-class parents who made their fortune manufacturing fertilizer. He disappointed his family by having no aptitude for their business, and sadly, they did not live to see him become the first couturier to make millions licensing his name. Dior spent an exhilarating youth mixing with the revolutionary artists of 1920s Paris. During the Depression, when his father lost his entire fortune, Christian began to work as a fashion illustrator and designer. After the war, he was bankrolled in his own house by the textiles billionaire Marcel Boussac. Dior envisioned ``a very small, very exclusive house . . . going back to the great traditions of luxury in French couture.'' He wanted to design for a few elegant, exquisite women, and after the deprivations of war, he wanted to make women beautiful again. Pochna uses the present-tense and lots of exclamation points to re-create the excitement of the debut showing, when the world first saw his tight bodices, wasp waists, and skirts made of 40 yards of material. The book is marred by repetitions and some contradictions (e learn three times, for example, that Dior's mother would have hated to see his name in front of a shop). Pochna exhibits a personal charm that must have helped win her some difficult interviews, but the bio often seems disjointed and unpolished. (32 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 1-55970-340-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996

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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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