A colorful, bittersweet romp through Old Fartdom.

How Did That Old Fart Get into My Mirror?

MRS. KORSAKOV, CAN RIMSKY COME OUT AND PLAY?

A retired director for The Ed Sullivan Show takes readers on a roller-coaster ride through the joys and perils of aging.

Part memoir, part smorgasbord of fun (but maybe not always accurate) facts, Schwarz’s quirky but sweet debut brims with fast-paced anecdotes about his life amid Wikipedia-type information—the causes of cataracts, the functions of the human heart, and the history of pants. Schwarz, 84, also paints vivid pictures of his childhood and his long-term career in television. The heartbeat of Schwarz’s memoir, however, is his 56-year marriage to his wife, Mimi. Schwarz favors age-related yuks, but the discussion usually spins off into various topics. For example, a story about his “Old Fart” blood pressure also includes mention of the sphygmomanometer and its origin. That tidbit turns into an analysis of how blood pressure works. He adds striking and often poignant life memories to the mix, such as the time when, during a romantic vacation in Venice, Mimi saw trash in the water and exclaimed, “In my memory it will be perfectly blue and crystal clear.”  At his best, Schwarz’s voice is reminiscent of Groucho Marx. Take, for instance, his description of the Japanese paperless toilet: “It washes, rinses, blow dries and even has a heating element for those shivery cold days; just be thankful it doesn’t iron out the wrinkles.” Other times, he sounds like a relentlessly chatty guy at a cocktail party who corners his victims with a dizzying array of trivia—from horses and Scythians to codpieces and corsets. Nevertheless, Schwarz’s friendly, cogent prose creates a buoyant page-turner. His homespun humor is affecting and may resonate with readers who don’t mind laughing at their own gray hair or leaky body parts (“It All Depends on Depends”). Some may wish he had spent a little less time on the parts of the eyeball and a little more time writing about his fascinating television career—he once worked with Janis Joplin. A shift in tone occurs abruptly at the book’s conclusion when Mimi becomes seriously ill. Here, Schwarz’s knee-slapping humor quickly melts into memorable sadness and reflection.

A colorful, bittersweet romp through Old Fartdom.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-5330-1890-8

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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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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SLEEPERS

An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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