Idiosyncratic readings by a generous, gifted writer who asks his readers to be open to a story’s poetry, its “light by which...

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THE WISDOM OF FAIRY TALES

The celebrated poet offers a personal reading of fairy tales.

Revisiting subjects previously explored in Iron John and The Maiden King, National Book Award winner Bly (Stealing Sugar from the Castle: Selected Poems, 1950-2013, 2013, etc.) wants to use his “intuition and write about stages of men’s growth as I see them in these tales.” For the author, these stories “are amazing trees of sound that grow inside the human memory and are fed by some longing for intimacy with others.” In them, the “psyche is trying to communicate what it knows, trying to slip something past the guards of the dictator ego.” Bly is influenced in his interpretive retellings by some “astonishing thinkers” (Kierkegaard, Yeats, etc.) and “those two old clowns, Freud and Jung.” The author first recounts each story in his own words and then informally discusses it (“let’s pause for some comments here….But back to the story again”) in the light of a variety of sources and poets. In addition to studying the works of others, Bly includes some of his own poems, a few previously unpublished. “One part of us is educated and one is not, particularly the feeling side, for men,” he writes. “I want to write poems for each side that both parts can understand.” The story of the “White Bear King Valemon,” for example, “offers us many glimpses into the divine world, which are difficult for those of us brought up in a culture that prefers not to talk seriously of spiritual excess.” Some readers may be bothered by Bly’s “intuitive,” philosophical ruminations on the stories, but he hopes that the “conscious mind may receive the fragrance of the old stories, tales told centuries ago by male and female geniuses.”

Idiosyncratic readings by a generous, gifted writer who asks his readers to be open to a story’s poetry, its “light by which we may see life.”

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-15819-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

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Sedaris at his darkest—and his best.

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CALYPSO

In which the veteran humorist enters middle age with fine snark but some trepidation as well.

Mortality is weighing on Sedaris (Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002, 2017, etc.), much of it his own, professional narcissist that he is. Watching an elderly man have a bowel accident on a plane, he dreaded the day when he would be the target of teenagers’ jokes “as they raise their phones to take my picture from behind.” A skin tumor troubled him, but so did the doctor who told him he couldn’t keep it once it was removed. “But it’s my tumor,” he insisted. “I made it.” (Eventually, he found a semitrained doctor to remove and give him the lipoma, which he proceeded to feed to a turtle.) The deaths of others are much on the author’s mind as well: He contemplates the suicide of his sister Tiffany, his alcoholic mother’s death, and his cantankerous father’s erratic behavior. His contemplation of his mother’s drinking—and his family’s denial of it—makes for some of the most poignant writing in the book: The sound of her putting ice in a rocks glass increasingly sounded “like a trigger being cocked.” Despite the gloom, however, frivolity still abides in the Sedaris clan. His summer home on the Carolina coast, which he dubbed the Sea Section, overspills with irreverent bantering between him and his siblings as his long-suffering partner, Hugh, looks on. Sedaris hasn’t lost his capacity for bemused observations of the people he encounters. For example, cashiers who say “have a blessed day” make him feel “like you’ve been sprayed against your will with God cologne.” But bad news has sharpened the author’s humor, and this book is defined by a persistent, engaging bafflement over how seriously or unseriously to take life when it’s increasingly filled with Trump and funerals.

Sedaris at his darkest—and his best.

Pub Date: May 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-39238-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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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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