An encore performance.

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THE SIEGE OF THE ARTS

COLLECTED WRITINGS 1994-2001

Essays, reviews, and occasional miscellaneous pieces by a central player in American theatre.

New Republic theatre critic and American Repertory Theatre founder Brustein (Dumbocracy in America, 1994, etc.) has distinguished himself as a perspicacious veteran of the culture wars. As in earlier collections, this one begins politically, brings on the reviews, and follows up with vignettes of people and places. Each part has a different pitch, but together they chronicle Brustein’s worldly devotion to the playhouse. The opening essays lead the charge against The Three Horsemen of the Anti-Culture: political, moral, and middlebrow aesthetic correctness. These, allied with corporate capitalism and a rigid multiculturalism, stand accused of laying into serious culture and threatening to make government and foundation sponsorship defunct. Nonetheless, neither a Cassandra nor a preacher, Brustein issues elucidating indictments topped with acerbic epigrams. And aside from trying to lift the “siege of the arts,” Brustein appreciates the complexity of the issues, tracing them to Puritan forebears and prejudicial powers, and acknowledging how the vast entertainment industry imbues as well as corrupts the theatre. However, he wisely calls these essays polemics, their short topical form not allowing the express statements a fuller exposition. If they amount to a convincing case, the reviews are where he finds his muse. A consummate devotee of letters, trained in the classics, having attended countless shows over several decades, he brings a sparkling intelligence to assessing what’s currently out there. Theatrical quality passes Brustein’s basic test if, more than embodying ideas and issues, realizing tragic or comic potential, and uniting production values, it mines emotional depth. Among contemporary shows, Tom Stoppard’s intellectual playgrounds disappoint, while Susan Sontag’s Alice in Bed and Margaret Edson’s Wit dig deep. The book concludes with an irreverent playlet about the final moments of an all-round favorite, aptly titled Chekhov on Ice.

An encore performance.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2001

ISBN: 1-56663-380-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Ivan Dee/Rowman & Littlefield

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2001

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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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