Gilbert wears her scholarship lightly in this warm, lively inquiry into the social, political, ethical and aesthetic...

THE CULINARY IMAGINATION

FROM MYTH TO MODERNITY

A literary scholar investigates the cultural meaning of food.

In this exuberant, wide-ranging look at what, how and why we eat, Gilbert (Rereading Women: Thirty Years of Exploring Our Literary Traditions, 2011, etc.) turns to poets and novelists, movies and art, food critics and celebrity chefs, memoirists and historians to consider the myriad and surprising ways that food reflects culture. She quotes Bill Buford in an epigraph that aptly sums up the book: “One of the great charismas of food is that it’s about culture and grandmothers and death and art and self-expression and family and society—and at the same time, it’s just dinner.” Anyone who has ever written about food is likely to be found in these pages, including Proust, Woolf, Hemingway, Plath, Sartre, Homer and Shakespeare. Gilbert also looks at Wallace Stevens’ “Emperor of Ice-Cream,” William Carlos Williams’ stolen plums, Gertrude Stein’s many culinary references in Tender Buttons, and the Romantic poets, whose works frequently featured “magical or exotic foods” that heightened a sense of the fantastic. Julia Child takes center stage when Gilbert considers the popularity of food shows and the transformation of mainstream American cuisine; she also examines the influence of food critics (Ruth Reichl and others) and food memoirists. The genre called “foodoirs,” writes Gilbert, “proliferate[s] like cookies and cupcakes…on bookstore shelves that used to be crammed with romance novels.” These include celebrants, such as M.F.K. Fisher, and food avoiders, such as anorexic and bulimic women. Gilbert reveals her own rich food legacy from her Italian and Russian grandparents, making her early food experiences far different from that of her Jell-o–eating classmates. Although her mother prepared lamb chops and instant mashed potatoes, the author recalls a Thanksgiving turkey stuffed with a Ligurian recipe of spinach, mushrooms, sausage, parmesan cheese and garlic.

Gilbert wears her scholarship lightly in this warm, lively inquiry into the social, political, ethical and aesthetic meanings of “food, glorious food!”

Pub Date: July 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-393-06765-1

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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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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