A gorgeous love song to swift cars—parents will want to keep it away from their teenaged sons.

READ REVIEW

BUILD THE PERFECT BEAST

THE QUEST TO DESIGN THE COOLEST CAR EVER MADE

A joyous ride down the rocky road of modern car design, with a pack of inspired lunatics fronted by Christensen (The Sweeps, not reviewed), on a journey to “build the greatest car in the world.”

By the greatest car, what Christensen is really talking about is speed: “I want to keep my dream car’s mission simple: A) Start; B) Hit the horizon.” The designer, Nick Pugh, a prodigy in the car-of-the-future department, speaks convincingly of automotive art (“I want my car to make sense the way a cloud makes sense or a tree, design with nonlinear symmetry. . . . Like a babe who has soft curves but talon nails, who could maybe kill you”), but when Christensen chats up the idea of beauty, he sounds like a junior-high kid trying to convince his mother to subscribe to Playboy for the great fiction it prints. For Christensen splices into this classily hip story of building the Xeno III (the greatest car ever made) his history as a fool for fast cars—a disease he has harbored since he was eight and one that has run through his life like a mighty, naughty river, shaping him, getting him into endless trouble. When a friend ponies up $100,000 for him to build the car, Christensen admits: “I feel what Leopold must have felt when he met Loeb,” and it just gets worse. In tandem the stories proceed: Christensen the young boy frustrated because he never has car enough; Christensen the middle-aged guy frustrated because he never has money enough ($100,000 won’t even buy the front bumpers on the car his team envisions). While the Xeno III does get built, in a stop-and-go process akin to learning the clutch, the real beauty of this story is the extended portrait Christensen paints of the family he grew up with and the family he now inhabits as a husband and father.

A gorgeous love song to swift cars—parents will want to keep it away from their teenaged sons.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2001

ISBN: 0-312-26873-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2001

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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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