CRIMINAL CONVICTIONS

ERRANT ESSAYS ON PERPETRATORS OF LITERARY LICENSE

``Nearly all good writers are `crime writers,' '' contends Freeling, author of 31 crime novels of his own (Flanders Sky, 1992, etc.), in this collection of essays and aperáus on the writers and writings that most interest and influence him. It is a collection as original, insightful, and intriguing as his novels. Although the genre is much maligned, crime writing is, of course, a universal form: Cain murdering his brother; Oedipus searching for the murderer of his father; Shakespeare's heroes murdering each other's souls. Its concern with power, mystery, the ``deep-hidden movement of the heart,'' and, at its best, its careful deployment of language make it a refuge, an often secret delight for intellectuals, politicians (some of whom write crime novels of their own), and those for whom the understanding of power and the nuances of human behavior are most important. In readings enviably perceptive and lyrical, Freeling explores the personal dimensions and secret charms of Stendhal (``the first to see crime in terms of ordinary emotions''), Dickens (who saw crime everywhere), Conrad (praised for the ``architecture'' of his novels), Kipling (``the outstanding prose artist of the English language''), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Raymond Chandler, Dorothy Sayers, and Georges Simenon. He rightly ridicules the ``giant armada of criticism'' that has grown up around Conrad and the institutionalization of Agatha Christie (``the darling of Hungarian students learning English''). Freeling demonstrates the importance of an educated heart as well as a critical vocabulary, of eclectic taste, and, in an eloquent ``Apologia pro vita sua,'' a good mate, in this case his long-suffering wife, whose support prompts him to say, ``the metaphysical nature of woman is the soul of art.'' Freeling here demonstrates that good reading and criticism, like good writing, require the skills of a crime writer, and he has clearly mastered all of them.

Pub Date: June 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-87923-973-5

Page Count: 182

Publisher: Godine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1994

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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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