A BARTHES READER

Sontag has made what seem to be rather conservative—and perhaps revisionist—choices in this sampler of Barthes' work, stressing complete short essays (presumably in the interest of wholeness) over sections of Barthes' longer and more radical works (Writing Degree Zero, S/Z, The Pleasure of the Text, Camera Lucida). Not that she glosses over basic Barthes, for her introductory essay presents the ideas clearly. "Barthes is always after another meaning, a more eccentric—often utopian—discourse." She notes, too, his "aphorist's ability to conjure up a vivacious duality: anything could be split either into itself and its opposite, or into two versions of itself; and one term then fielded itself against the other to yield an unexpected relation." In this connection, Sontag updates her early interest in "camp" to encompass Barthes' more complex aesthete's penchant for liking more than he actually does, for seeming to be emptier and less personal than he really is. This is shrewd analysis, but the Barthes that Sontag thus gives us somehow comes off as slightly flitty; he is hardly the man who—with his insistence on writing as a "closed" or "hardened" system of language, not as communication—has perhaps done more than anyone else to elevate the critic to prima donna status (while suctioning out the flesh of literature). As if Sontag herself suspects this, she stresses Barthes' late stirrings of misgivings (what she calls his "taking pleasure, expressing love" for the world, as opposed to only system). And she makes much of one of the two heretofore unpublished pieces collected here: Barthes' address to the College de France upon his election to its faculty—in which he definitely does seem to be backtracking, putting emphasis on "literature" rather than on text. . .and nearly apologizing for semiology ("a kind of wheelchair, the wild card of contemporary knowledge"). The signals, then, are decidedly mixed here—Sontag's even more than Barthes'—but all the brilliance and outlandishness (and maybe even the self-destructiveness) of the Barthesian theory is well represented in this compendium.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 1982

ISBN: 0099224917

Page Count: 495

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1982

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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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