A rich, well-documented collection for students of photography and Jewish culture.


Descendants of Light


Through interviews, portraits, essays, and photos, this large-format book explores the role of Jewish ancestry in the work of more than 70 leading American photographers.

Wolin (The Jews of Wyoming: Fringe of the Diaspora, 2000), a commercial, editorial, and documentary photographer, noticed that any list of influential American photographers would include many Jewish names and wondered why: “What could bearing Jewish ancestral roots possibly have to do with the skills involved in being a photographer?” This book, the result of her five-year project investigating the question, includes interviews, family photos, Wolin’s portraits of her subjects, and (in a separate section) an iconic example for each, presented in a large, generous format. “The Claim of a Jewish Eye,” an essay by Alan Trachtenberg of Yale University, discusses problematic issues inherent in such a project, though in a way that raises more questions than it answers—as when quoting other writers’ claims about difference: Jewish photographers are funky and restless, Gentiles “more settled.” Trachtenberg calls these claims “raffish” and “dazzling,” but they could also be labeled vastly, unhelpfully oversimplified. Some of Wolin’s subjects, especially those who experienced pressure to assimilate, see little or no connection between a Jewish background and their artistry. But for those who do perceive a link, the Jewish experience of being an outsider—someone who is necessarily watching others—is significant, both as a stance from which to observe and because photography was, like many other arts, a profession open to Jews. Also important, they say, is the Jewish intellectual tradition of humanistic questioning and interest in existential problems. The entries, arranged alphabetically, offer an intriguing range of opinions, styles, eras, and insights together with large, beautifully reproduced photographs. Reading photographers on their own work delivers the book’s most intriguing moments. For example, Joel Meyerowitz comments that “Photographing is about the potential meaning of things that are at loose in the world....Intuition is a form of mysticism,” while for Toba Tucker, “Photography is my great identity. The camera is the answer.”

A rich, well-documented collection for students of photography and Jewish culture.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9676357-2-9

Page Count: 244

Publisher: Crazy Woman Creek Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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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 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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