THE PHILOSOPHER'S DEMISE

A sometimes funny, sometimes bitter memoir of a scholar's fruitless efforts to master spoken French. Watson (Philosophy/Washington Univ.; Niagara, 1993) had been specializing in the work of Descartes for 25 years when he was asked to deliver a paper in French at an international conference and decided to finally learn to speak the language. Although he compares himself here to the professor in Don DeLillo's White Noise—the world's foremost authority on ``Hitler Studies,'' who can neither speak, read, nor write German—Watson could, in fact, read French fluently (although he couldn't pronounce the words he read). When he begins to study spoken French, however, he finds his reading ability a hindrance rather than an aid: He is bored with necessary beginning exercises; he thinks too much about what he is saying; he cannot apply what he knows from reading French to speaking it. After months of lessons— three times a week at first, then every day as the conference date nears—Watson is able to read his speech in French but is unable to respond to questions following it. Rather than give up, he becomes even more determined. He enrolls in a four-month intensive beginner's course at the Alliance Franáaise in Paris, for which he just barely qualifies, but ultimately fails to win a certificate of proficiency. Watson admits that he is a less able student in his middle age than he used to be, but he assigns blame for his inability to pass elsewhere—to French pedagogy, the Alliance, and the fact that American men are uncomfortable with the unmacho sounds and facial expressions required to speak French. He also takes the opportunity to examine everything French, from toilets to Cartesian scholars, and finds much to criticize and much at which to be amused. Just this side of charming.

Pub Date: March 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-8262-1003-1

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Univ. of Missouri

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1995

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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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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