Perspicacious, penetrating, and instructive.


An erudite and opinionated critic offers up a taster of tantalizing essays.

Former New Yorker editor and Knopf editor-in-chief Gottlieb (Avid Reader: A Life, 2016, etc.), now approaching 90, is still keeping his writing fingers busy in the book world. This collection of previously published essays, mostly book reviews from the New York Review of Books written over the past 10 years, is divided into six sections: Lives, Letters, Music, Dance, Movies, and Observing Dance (notices about dance performances published in the New York Observer). As a book publisher for 60 years and a Farrar, Straus and Giroux author, Gottlieb assesses Boris Kachka’s Hothouse, a history of the publisher. Although the book is a “vigorous and diverting trot…frequently slapdash and overwrought,” it’s a “valuable effort” about a press that has “maintained an amazingly consistent level of quality.” Having penned biographies of George Balanchine and Sarah Bernhardt, Gottlieb is quite adept writing about music and dance. An essay on Clive Davis, the “mogul of moguls of pop music,” easily rests beside the author’s discussions of the “maestro,” Arturo Toscanini, whom Gottlieb puts in the same category with Einstein and Picasso. Conductor Leonard Bernstein, whom Gottlieb worked with as an author, is simultaneously “legendary” and “over-the-top.” The author’s “In the Mood for Love” is a sprightly assessment of romance novels: “Its readership is vast, its satisfactions apparently limitless, its profitability incontestable. And where’s the harm?” He rescues Ivan Goncharov’s 1859 novel Oblomov, about a man who never gets out of bed, and waxes euphoric over Irishman Sebastian Barry’s “luminous” novels. Gottlieb takes on an eclectic mix of subjects: Wilkie Collins, Diana Cooper, John Wilkes Booth, Mary Astor, Ethel Merman, Dorothy Parker, Esther Williams, Lorenz Hart, Maya Plisetskaya, Frank Sinatra, the “awful” film Black Swan, Setsuko Hara, an “actress like no other,” and Thomas Wolfe, who “has gone over the cultural cliff.”

Perspicacious, penetrating, and instructive.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-374-21991-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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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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