An odd, but affecting book that blends history, autobiography, and rock.

Blue Is Just A Word


This debut memoir gives readers two tragic deaths and a running rumination on Lincoln, the Civil War, slavery, and the author’s career as a musician.

The book opens with the funeral of Judi, Foster’s wife, leaving him with a 2-year-old daughter, Anna. Nine months before, Foster’s younger brother Dave also died of cancer after horrible suffering. Both Judi and Dave are described as almost too good, too saintly, for this earth; Foster was beyond devastated. Then the work backtracks to childhoods; the courtship of Judi; memories of Dave, his soul mate; and Foster’s success as a rock musician in the Boston area and England during the early days of the genre. He was blessed with a solid upbringing. His mother was musically inclined and also a history teacher who taught her three sons true history—the evil of slavery, for example—as against those who would distort or subvert it. This became the bedrock of Foster’s thinking (in his view, the Civil War was not about states’ rights) and, today, he is a highly respected amateur Civil War historian. Slavery remains a recurring theme, not just the institution that shamed the country in Lincoln’s time, but slavery as any addiction (Judi’s father was a hopeless alcoholic) or whatever rules and binds individuals, as Judi’s and Dave’s cancers did. Slavery is all around people and inside them, which is the basic message of the work, and the author is fervent about fighting it in all its manifestations. In fact, Foster is one of the most passionate writers readers will likely find between the two covers of a book, and it is important to emphasize that this is not feigned, that somehow the audience will know that this is not an act. But it must be added that passion, the need to tell all, to wrestle one’s demons and narrative absolutely to the ground, can be an embarrassment of riches. But for aficionados of Lincoln and the Civil War or especially the early rock scene, this should be a rich feast. There is also a helpful bibliography.

An odd, but affecting book that blends history, autobiography, and rock. 

Pub Date: March 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9864204-8-1

Page Count: -

Publisher: Book Architecture

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2016

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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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