THE AUDEN GENERATION

LITERATURE AND POLITICS IN ENGLAND IN THE 1930S

"How do you write an elegy for a political movement? How do you grieve for strangers?" Those are the sort of questions that Samuel Hynes asks in this unusually empathetic yet irretrievably academic study of the writers who matured in England in the selfish Twenties—when heroism was dead—and entered the Thirties with newly discovered, political heroes and with the notion that poetry could save the world. Hynes' format—cloddish at first glance but ultimately powerful—is utterly chronological and comprehensive; year by year, almost month by month, he analyzes all of the generation's published poems, fiction, plays, belles lettres, and criticism of importance. With minimal biography, a strong sense of historical happenings, and vast chunks of quoted texts, he demonstrates how public life invaded the "private" lives of Auden, Spender, Isherwood, Day Lewis, Orwell, John Lehmann, Louis MacNeice, and others; how the Communist Party attracted and finally disenchanted; how the war in Spain became the event to write about and dive into; how the activist-artist of struggle became, by decade's end, the lost-cause artist resigned to suffering, aware that the artist's function is not to change the world, but also aware that "if art survives, man survives too." Auden dominates, of course, with his carving out of a deep valley between "Escape-art" and the more urgently needed "Parable-art," but Hynes devotes equal energy to the alternative approaches—reportage, documentary films, outright propaganda—and to the individual dilemmas and fine distinctions of "left" faced by writers who were forced to reorder priorities of message and medium. If Hynes can be seen straining to fit surrealists or Graham Greene into his overview, that's a smaller problem than his consistent de-emphasis of personal motivations. Especially since Isherwood's recent Christopher and His Kind, the Auden-Isherwood quest for the heroism of the "Truly Strong Man," requires more examination of homosexual undercurrents, and Hynes' use of "Isherwood had gone to Berlin" as an unqualified example of expanding writer interest in foreign affairs simply cannot stand. Such tunnel-vision keeps Hynes off-limits for the general reader, but it does nothing to diminish the vigor of his textual illuminations, the elegance of his prose, or the warmth with which he shares the paradox of these writers.

Pub Date: May 20, 1977

ISBN: 0712652507

Page Count: 427

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1977

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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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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