GETTING HIGH

THE ADVENTURES OF OASIS

A little over 30 years ago, England gave the world the Kinks— a band founded by two brothers who couldn't stand each other. Now England has given us Oasis, led by Noel and Liam Gallagher, who are equally belligerent if not slightly more complex. Hewitt tracks the band's history from the Gallaghers' childhood in Manchester with a sadistic father (he begrudged them even Christmas gifts, according to his wife), countless soccer matches, and petty crime, to overnight success, the downside of fame, and mounds of cocaine and oceans of alcohol. While Hewitt's treatment of Oasis is innovatively nonlinear, bouncing back and forth between 1960s Manchester and 1990s London and concerts (Hewitt accompanied the band on tour), and he writes in the colorful vernacular of the Gallaghers' hometown, his preference for Noel is obvious. The reader gets the impression that the guitarist/songwriter is a reborn Coleridge—equal parts Romantic poet and drug devotee—while his brother, singer Liam, is unwashed and downright simian. But as Hewitt demonstrates, the two found each other indispensable—they alternately stormed out of the band only to return. Hewitt has a very strong sense of Oasis's roots- -probably from having written Beat Concerto: The Story of the Jam (not reviewed), on one of Noel's primary influences. And Getting High is at its best when recounting such serendipitous events as Noel meeting the only displaced Irishman from northern England more famous than himself—Paul McCartney. However, his lax treatment of Oasis's drug use smacks of tacit approval; Hewitt could have been equally descriptive without glamorizing the Gallaghers' lapses. Still, Hewitt finally proves his thesis that ``if Oasis was just Liam, they would never have been signed, they would have threatened to self destruct. If Oasis was just Noel, they would have never reached the heights they have.'' (16 pages photos, not seen)

Pub Date: April 15, 1997

ISBN: 0-7868-8228-X

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1997

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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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SLEEPERS

An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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