This isn’t essential Auster, but fans and scholars of his work will undoubtedly be charmed and intrigued by his evolving...

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TALKING TO STRANGERS

SELECTED ESSAYS, PREFACES, AND OTHER WRITINGS, 1967-2017

An eclectic collection of essays from the 50-year career of a beloved novelist and thinker.

In the first piece, Auster (4 3 2 1, 2017, etc.) muses that “to feel estranged from language is to lose your own body. When words fail you, you dissolve into an image of nothingness. You disappear.” One can forgive him for a bit of youthful melodrama, as the essay was written in 1967, when the author was only 20 years old and his illustrious literary career still years away. Still, it’s a start to the collection, which skips through that career at a chipper pace, highlighting some of his famous essays and criticism along with several pieces that have never been published. Selections from the 1970s are particularly erudite; Auster was then a young poet and little-known novelist, but he made a name for himself contributing pieces of literary criticism to the New York Review of Books. Beckett and Kafka—two writers with undeniable influences on Auster’s own fiction—appear for the first time there and then several more times throughout the book. One of the most engaging essays is also one that another writer or editor might have shoved, forgotten, in a drawer: a lecture from 1982 at Seton Hall that becomes a fascinating exploration of the influence of European readership on Edgar Allan Poe, which is particularly interesting considering how popular Auster would become in Europe. Later in the collection, the essays branch out from literature to other art forms, as Auster writes about filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, illustrator Joe Brainard, and even New York Mets pitcher Terry Leach. They also turn more personal, with the author examining everything from an ode to his beloved typewriter (which Auster traveled with for decades even as the world turned to computers and word processing) to a somber remembrance of his family’s experiences during 9/11.

This isn’t essential Auster, but fans and scholars of his work will undoubtedly be charmed and intrigued by his evolving thoughts on art, language, and other assorted topics.

Pub Date: May 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-20629-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Picador

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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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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