A fun, enlightening read for writers and book lovers alike.

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WHY WE WRITE

20 ACCLAIMED AUTHORS ON HOW AND WHY THEY DO WHAT THEY DO

A rich, informative essay collection based on interviews with 20 prominent authors seeking to answer the question: "Why do writers write?"

Whether as an avocation or a profession, writing "promises only poverty, rejection and self-doubt,” writes veteran book critic and author Maran (A Theory of Small Earthquakes, 2012, etc.). As the editor points out, however, this fact does not stop people from writing and trying to publish their manuscripts, only 1 percent of which will ever see print. So what drives individuals to engage in this constantly frustrating endeavor? Maran posed the question to writers who seemed to have what every writer could ever want: “[m]illions or billions of fans worldwide . . . [and] full creative freedom.” Isabelle Allende and David Baldacci write from an obsessive need to tell stories. Kathryn Harrison explains that “it’s the only thing I know that offers the hope of proving myself worthy of love.” Armistead Maupin writes that “it’s a way of processing my disasters, sorting out the messiness of life to lend symmetry and meaning to it.” Maran’s subjects include authors who have received both popular and critical acclaim, and she includes details about how each author found a place in the literary sun. She also delves into how they approach the task of recording their stories and presents their writing tips. The wisdom these luminaries offer sometimes, and perhaps inevitably, borders on the obvious or banal: “You have to simply love writing,” writes Susan Orleans. But more often than not, that wisdom is as sharp-eyed and candid as Sue Grafton’s observation that “[b]anging out a single book, then thinking you’re ready to give up your day job and be a full-time writer, is the equivalent of learning to play ‘Three Blind Mice’ on the piano and then expecting to be booked into Carnegie Hall.”

A fun, enlightening read for writers and book lovers alike.

Pub Date: Jan. 29, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-452-29815-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Plume

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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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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