THE ANTI-EGOTIST

KINGSLEY AMIS, MAN OF LETTERS

Fussell (Bad, 1991, etc.) certainly has come a long way from his early work as a conventional literary scholar. This breezy account of Kingsley Amis's career smartly adopts its subject's "no-nonsense, can-the-bullshit tone." More important, Fussell understands the guiding principles that link all of Amis's work as critic, poet, anthologist, restaurant reviewer, and, of course, novelist. Primarily about Amis's nonfiction writing, Fussell's jaunty and anecdotal study establishes Amis as a consummate man of letters, skilled in a variety of genres. Fussell sees beyond the popular notion of Amis as a mean-spirited reactionary, though he's still troubled by Amis's illiberal opinions. A "cultural democrat," Amis values honesty, civility, and lack of pretense. He distrusts egotists and is suspicious of most literary modernism, a predilection he shares with his college chum and compatriot Philip Larkin. Trained as a teacher of literature, Amis grew disillusioned with academic approaches to texts, preferring to take his case directly to common readers through the popular press. In the '80s, he even edited a poetry column for the tabloid Daily Mirror. If Amis seems ungenerous to American literature, says Fussell, it's only for its lack of modesty (in pursuit of "the masterpiece") and its cult of authenticity. Amis's antimodern aesthetic emerges fully in his literary criticism — celebrations of plain-speaking poets such as Tennyson, Kipling, and Housman — and in his work as an anthologist. As a poet, Amis, like Larkin, shook off the early Auden influence for a more demotic idiom and a more accessible style. Fussell, who counts Amis an acquaintance of some 40 years, indulges his own anglophilia at times, affecting British slang and extolling what he sees as their superior wit. Despite the oddities in diction and tone, Fussell is the perfect match for his subject — witty, thoughtful, brief, and, not least of it, accurate.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-19-508736-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1994

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NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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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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