NEW CRITICAL ESSAYS

Eight not-so-new essays, as ingenious and exasperating as ever, by the late M. Barthes. These pieces, which date from 1964 to 1971, were originally published along with Le degré zéro de l'écriture in 1972. They add nothing of substance to the Barthesian canon (most are brief reflections on classic, or at least familiar, French authors, from La Rochefoucauld to Proust), but they provide a sampling of all that is most brilliant—and most dubious—in the work of the great Structuralist mandarin. For all his scientific pretensions (and his pedantic love of abstruse terms), Barthes was a poet. His style, to which translator Richard Howard does almost perfect justice, positively caresses the literary object with a sort of refined intellectual voluptuousness. (Discussing Pierre Loti's novel Aziyadé, Barthes savors "the sensuous, plump palatization of the y" in the title.) This uncanny sensitivity, along with his formidable analytical skills, makes Bartles an illuminating guide to things like Chateaubriand's Life of Rancé or the use of names in Proust. Still, what Barthes actually does with literature often seems irrelevant or downright destructive—less concerned with the text than with weaving interpretations around it. Aziyadé, he says, is an insipid novel—but the disjunction separating Julien Viaud (the author, a naval officer and world traveler), Pierre Loti (his pseudonym and literary self), and a second Loti (protagonist of the story) creates all kinds of opportunities for Structuralist gymnastics. This indifference to content in the traditional sense reminds one of nihilism, and in fact at one point Barthes observes that in literature, as in life, "there is ultimately nothing to understand." But still worse is Barthes' penchant for oracular utterances, often obscure (what is "a nascent schizophrenia, prudently formed in a homeopathic quantity"?) and always dogmatic ("antithesis is. . . a mechanism quite devoid of meaning"). This can lead, at best, to a string of thought-provoking dicta, but in any case it fails to leave the reader with a coherent view of the work in question.

Pub Date: July 1, 1980

ISBN: 0810126419

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1980

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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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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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