A helpful, amusing, no-nonsense oyster manual for the layperson.




The briny underbelly of one of the world’s most respected seafoods.

James Beard Award winner Walsh (Are You Really Going to Eat That?, 2003, etc.) begins his journey in Galveston Bay, whose muddy yet plentiful waters he navigates to explain the nuts and bolts of oyster fishing. From dredging procedures to vibrio vulnificus, a deadly bacteria found in Gulf oysters, he lays bare the industry’s foundations while taking time to explain its competitive nature in a landscape of short seasons and state laws prohibiting outside imports. Walsh faithfully consumes mass quantities of his subject—raw, fried or even pressurized—and takes care to elaborate. He deliciously conveys the spectrum of oyster varieties and flavors, ranging from sweet and milky to salty and nutty. The further Walsh strays from his Texas roots—destinations include New Orleans, Ireland, New York City and Toronto—the sharper his accounts. It would have been nice, however, if he’d offered more elaborate descriptions of personalities he met along the way, in addition to the oysters they serve. Characters who particularly call out for fuller portraits include the New Fulton Fish Market’s grizzly fishermen and Don Quinn, founder of England’s Alternative Oyster Feast, a faux-festival instituted to rail against upper-class food snobbery. Aspiring gourmets will appreciate the recipes sprinkled throughout, from the legendary Oysters Rockefeller to the Grand Central Oyster Bar’s Pan Roast. Walsh borrows descriptions from gastronomes Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin and M.F.K. Fisher to expound upon taste and historic feats of consumption—not necessarily a good idea, since they enhance but also and outshine his own depictions. Thankfully, backdoor discoveries soon recapture the spotlight. Oysters from the same region typically have similar taste, the author reveals, regardless of how varieties from Long Island, the Chesapeake and Washington are marketed. “It’s impossible to identify where oysters come from,” he learns from the eccentric biologist who owns the Seasalter Shellfish company in England. “Anybody can tell you anything about where their oysters come from and nobody can prove a thing.”

A helpful, amusing, no-nonsense oyster manual for the layperson.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-58243-457-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2009

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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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