An engrossing combination of historic renovation, memoir, and literary and religious history.


Sometimes I Sing


Restoring a home serves as an extended metaphor for understanding decades-old family dysfunction, informed by Mennonite influences, in this debut memoir.

Hershberger, a retired English teacher, was no stranger to renovation or restoration when her Realtor contacted her about the Roberts house, about to be listed in Syracuse, New York. But the author, after being involved in 20 such projects, had just downsized to a three-bedroom bungalow that she intended to be carried out of in a box, and claimed no interest in “doing” another house. Furthermore, the Roberts domicile had little to recommend itself—architecturally unappealing, moldering, and derelict, all at an asking price that topped the neighborhood’s comparable dwellings. Despite these disincentives, Hershberger was inexplicably drawn to the house and embarked on the renovation of a lifetime, made more exacting by her determination that this would be her own home. The divorced mother of three was brought up by a Mennonite minister and teacher so miserable with their own lives that three of their four children were so psychically scarred that they could barely function in the real world. Hershberger worked through many of these issues, along with her own failed marriage, interest in the history of the Amish and Mennonites, and other literary and intellectual issues, during long hours of paint stripping and wallpaper peeling. Alternating with the room-by-room accounts of the restoration are memories of her childhood or stories of her relationship with her parents in adulthood. Most of the transitions are seamless, but at times, the memoir aspect overwhelms the far more appealing accounts of home improvement. While Hershberger repeatedly discusses her mother’s dissatisfaction and bitterness, as well as her father’s penuriousness, her claims that her parents’ marital dysfunction resulted in her siblings’ mental illness are not well supported (indeed, her only consultation with an outside authority occurs late in the narrative, when she discusses reading Peter D. Kramer’s Listening to Prozac). Nevertheless, readers should enjoy the fun parts of the book—house porn at its best, interspersed with inspiring quotes (for example, Emily Dickinson’s “To comprehend a nectar requires the sorest need”), and anecdotes about Mennonitism.

An engrossing combination of historic renovation, memoir, and literary and religious history.

Pub Date: May 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-578-18031-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Cottonwood Press

Review Posted Online: July 4, 2016

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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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