A catharsis for writer and reader alike.

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MOURNING DIARY

The French philosopher opens his heart in a book he never intended to publish.

Following the death of his mother in 1977, Barthes (1915–1980) mourned her with a series of daily reflections written on typewriter paper that he had cut into quarters. These served to focus and distill the writing, which he would do in the morning before working on his course preparation and his last masterwork, Camera Lucida (1980). “Suffering, like a stone… / (around my neck,  / deep inside me)” he writes on Mar. 24, 1978, and then underscores the image a couple weeks later: “Despair: the world is too theatrical, a part of the language. // A stone.” The author uses Proust as a frequent point of comparison, with references to Tolstoy and others as well. Though there is little suggestion that Barthes is writing for anyone but himself, he ponders early in the process, “Who knows? Maybe something valuable in these notes?” His musings encompass not only the death of his mother but the essence of mortality: “The truth about mourning is quite simple: now that maman is dead, I am faced with death (nothing any longer separates me from it except time).” As the anniversary of her death approaches: “As for death, maman’s death gave me the (previously quite abstract) certainty that all men are mortal—that there would never be any discrimination—and the certainty of having to die by that logic soothed me.” Yet such soothing doesn’t alleviate his suffering, as he subsequently acknowledges: “I write my suffering less and less yet it grows all the stronger, shifting to the realm of the eternal, since I no longer write it.” With one entry to a page and reproductions from the writer’s diary cards, the volume invites comparison with Nabokov’s posthumously published The Original of Laura (2009), yet where that novel remains incomplete, each of these entries is complete in itself.

A catharsis for writer and reader alike.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-8090-6233-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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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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