With its astute analysis of major issues within the play, accessible overview of the history of their interpretation and a...

LOOKING FOR HAMLET

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.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-4039-7036-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2007

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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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