Camp Songs, Folk Songs

A folkloric analysis of the song repertoire of American summer camps from the 1950s through the ’70s.
This volume originated in the ’70s as a manuscript, written when the author was a recent graduate from the University of Pennsylvania, with a doctorate in American studies and a concentration in folklore. Although her career ultimately led her away from academia, she has decided to publish it to show what she calls “a tradition in its final flowering”: the American tradition of summer-camp songs. She divides the book into five sections: “Folklore,” “Age Group Influences on Repertoire,” “Camp Philosophy Influences on Repertoire,” “Gender Influences on Repertoire” and “Midwestern Influences on Repertoire.” She also includes photographs, an extensive list of participants, archives, camps and references, and the publishing histories of the 19 songs she uses as case studies. The chapters discuss the songs’ use of humor, how children acquire language from songs (and develop motor skills, for songs that use gestures), musical styles, and other concepts. Each chapter looks specifically at one song that illustrates a theme, along with variant lyrics, but not, surprisingly and disappointingly, the sheet music. That said, Averill provides a treasure trove of raw data about American summer-camp music in the mid-20th century, and she effectively illustrates how the songs moved seamlessly between musical genres. She points out the influences of 19th century religious “camp” revivalism, European immigrants and their tradition of communal singing, the songs of Tin Pan Alley and World War I, and the folk revival of the 1960s. The book also demonstrates how singing was used to foster communal feelings among campers; at other times, it allowed them to express subversive humor, thus pushing adolescent boundaries. However, much of the information in this book is provided in haphazard order, regardless of relevance. As a result, although the author certainly knows her folklore, some of the discussions may be difficult for laymen to follow, as larger themes often get lost in a shuffle of names and references that may mean little to casual readers. (A minimal index is available, but on a separate website.)

A dense resource that may be most useful for folklorists, folk-music scholars, and historians of Americana.

Pub Date: May 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-1493179114

Page Count: 714

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.


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

Did you like this book?


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet