A fascinating premise and plenty of personal experience aren’t enough to carry this book from conceptual advice into...

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We Could All Become Geniuses

SEEKING FUN IN LEARNING AND THINKING

An earnest, sprawling assessment of how we approach learning and thinking.

Part memoir, part theory, this book has a lot of thoughts about thought. Drawing largely on his experience as a teenager who left Japan to attend a boarding school in Connecticut, Ogata explains how he approached new challenges, from learning to pronounce certain words in English to physics. His central thesis is that learning can be organized into five steps—observation, inquiry, confirmation, discovery and review. The anecdotes Ogata shares to illustrate these steps are often intriguing and enlightening, such as his detailed observation regarding the syntax of thinking in Japanese and its contrast to the syntax of thinking in English. Ogata clearly illustrates how this type of observation informed his oral and written communication. Yet as the chapters continue, the five steps become redundant, processed again and again in different examples of problem solving. Ogata defines a genius as “a person with the ability to perform rare and creative thinking.” How Ogata’s five steps lead to genius-level thinking is an approachable line of thought, but it remains somewhat abstract how and why readers are supposed to apply these steps in common dilemmas. A sturdier framework for presenting these concepts may have helped rein them in. Some of Ogata’s suggestions—such as using a how-to approach in solving problems—are concrete enough to be useful, but other examples stem from the business world and other limited arenas. There’s a lot of talk of fun—a word that appears dozens of times in the text—but not all readers will be convinced that there’s entertainment to be had in slowing down and examining personal thought processes. At best, the broad guide is an enthusiastic treatise that urges readers to be conscious of how they think and recognize the untapped resource of their own curiosity.

A fascinating premise and plenty of personal experience aren’t enough to carry this book from conceptual advice into practical application for daily life.

Pub Date: April 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-0991024001

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Duke Ogata

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2014

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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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