EXISTENTIAL ERRANDS

Maybe Prisoner of Sex revitalized Mailer for detractors as well as admirers, but you don't have to be a feminist to put this book down. Indeed, it needs no down-putting — it devolves by itself into banality, vacuity and general sludge. It's a collection of Mailer's occasional pieces from the last five-odd years. The subjects range from such prefabricated micro-Hemingway efforts as boxing and a Lorca translation to attempts at revenge or self-justification vis-a-vis the critics, e.g., the claim that New York critics' taste determines what is produced and mutterings about what a fine book the ever-maligned American Dream is. Mailer of course not only ventured into play writing during this period but undertook some film ventures; this book reminds us how fast the "free run of obscenity" lost its shock value, and Mailer's writings on the movies give little evidence of any other kind of value. Despite his relatively straightforward journalistic efforts on the Kennedy assassination and Mark Lane, and the moderate essence of "black power," the final message of the book is about Mailer himself: it invites the conclusion that he's afraid to try sustained, disciplined work. This comes through indelibly in his accounts of movie-making, of the big novel he was going to write in these years, and of his New York mayoral campaign which seems to have lacked tactics, strategy, or any theory beyond the trendiness of local community control. Thus the undertones of envy in his piece on Podhoretz and Making It (probably the most interesting thing in the book) in which he exhibits admiration for Podhoretz' frank sense of purpose and will to success. In contrast to this stands Mailer's own "existentialism" — not the big-E kind but something close to the philosophy of the traveling salesman who thinks existentialism means God-is-dead-do-what-you-want — from that vantage point it's hard to generate artistic commitment or even, as in the case of this collection, bellelettristic accomplishment.

Pub Date: April 17, 1972

ISBN: 0451054229

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1972

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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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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