NO MAN'S LAND

THE PLACE OF THE WOMAN WRITER IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, VOL. III: LETTERS FROM THE FRONT

The final third of this feminist literary study maintains the quality of volumes I (The War of the Words, 1987) and II (Sexchanges, 1989) as it looks at women writers' exploration of our century's complex and ever-shifting cultural scene, particularly the thorny question of gender. Gilbert and Gubar take a generally chronological approach, beginning with the modernists. In their analysis, Virginia Woolf sketched scenarios challenging traditional sex roles, as well as the historical settings and the social hierarchies in which they functioned. Edna St. Vincent Millay and Marianne Moore were ``female female impersonators'' who exploited femininity's artificiality in an imaginative but uncertainly empowering way. The authors then move on to the Harlem Renaissance, arguing that such writers as Nora Zeale Hurston, Jessie Redmon Faucet, and Nella Larsen worked to reveal the ``authentic (black) feminine'' behind racial stereotypes and criticized (white) feminism. Intertwining the poet and her work, a chapter on HD maintains that she produced her long poems by consciously manipulating images of herself. Moving forward to WW II, Gilbert and Gubar discuss the period's ``blitz on women'': Cheesecake pinups on tanks and VD posters conflated sex and death, while even positive images of the women left behind were tinged with resentment. They contend that metaphors from the war, transformed into images of sexual battle, haunted the poems of Sylvia Plath, who fought toward a way of being a woman beyond the old patriarchal traditions. At once playful and thoughtful, the final chapter considers the multiplicity of women's stories via the authors' several rewrites of Snow White—e.g., the no-longer-evil queen challenges gender roles by advising Snow White to ``marry the Prince but sleep with me too,'' while in another version a critically savvy queen realizes they're all ``merely signifiers, signifying nothing.'' A satisfying conclusion to an ambitious project.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 1994

ISBN: 0-300-05631-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1994

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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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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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