A riveting primer on the work many deem Shakespeare’s greatest.
Hamlet is “the single most important work in constructing who we are, especially in how we understand our psychological, intellectual, and emotional beings,” writes Hunt (English/North Carolina State Univ.), because it “enacts a radical and unprecedented internalization of reality.” (Reading it, Dostoevsky heard “the groaning of the whole numbed universe.”) Using as a springboard Hamlet’s famous remark from Act II Scene ii, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so,” Hunt convincingly argues that both the play and Shakespeare’s most enigmatic character have figured largely in how subsequent cultures have defined themselves through their interpretations of this drama, which brought some 600 new words into the English language. The author also supplies the tragedy’s history, showing that the story of Hamlet originated with 12th-century Danish historian Saxo the Grammarian and was first popularized in Shakespeare’s day by François de Belleforest and perhaps Thomas Kyd. Hunt discusses the significant variations among the three Shakespearean versions: the first and second quartos of 1603 (Q1) and 1604/5 (Q2), as well as the First Folio (F1) of 1623, which appeared seven years after the Bard’s death. Hunt’s comparison of Q1 and Q2 yields a beautiful close reading of Hamlet’s character, and his controversial view that F1 follows Q1 more closely than Q2 makes even a Shakespeare novice appreciate just what’s at stake in the editorial decisions surrounding any modern edition.
With its astute analysis of major issues within the play, accessible overview of the history of their interpretation and a reading of contemporary criticism sure to set alight a few rooms in the ivory tower of Shakespearean studies, Hunt’s work offers something for casual readers as well as literary scholars.
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").
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)