Always informative, slightly irreverent, deeply interested, Hutchinson sometimes finds life en famille in Rome tedious but...

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WHEN IN ROME

A JOURNAL OF LIFE IN VATICAN CITY

Giving playful cover to a considerable bit of academic research, Hutchinson wanders with Yankee curiosity and determination through the Vatican and Rome in this guided tour of what he calls the “spiritual and political center of [a] vast international network,” the “visible civic arm of the Holy See.”

Hutchinson, a longtime journalistic Vatican observer, has previously written on gambling and vice, which equips him perfectly for his mission. With irony and humor, he prefaces short chapters with quotes from previous literary commentators on all that is awe-inspiring and inspirational about the Vatican and Rome, and explores the history and present of the Vatican in rich and formal detail. Yet he humanizes the historical aspects of the papacy and reveals centuries of struggle for sanctity and power. He describes the opulence within the sacred walls of St. Peter’s and walks out wondering, “Who dusts all of this stuff?” Or provides an encyclopedic explanation of the various garments worn by bishops and priests of different sects the world over, at the same time noting the abyss that hangs between “smug churchy professionals . . . and . . .the buoyant faith of the hapless pilgrims”—the young believers who flock to this site year after year for a glimpse and a snapshot. The Vatican emerges as a crazy mosaic that has withstood the equally crazy maze of history that brought us here. At last, a richer guidebook lies herein for its deep reverence for the role of religion in history, as expressed by this singular city both in anecdote and document. So Hutchinson walks out of an interview with a papal accountant-type “. . . with the green Consolidated Financial Statement and five black rosaries—not a bad metaphor, I thought, of what the Vatican is like.”

Always informative, slightly irreverent, deeply interested, Hutchinson sometimes finds life en famille in Rome tedious but shares his excitement at discovering the extraordinary world of the Vatican with captivating enthusiasm.

Pub Date: June 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-48647-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1998

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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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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

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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