STEPHEN KING'S DANSE MACABRE

An informal overview of where the horror genre has been over the last thirty years"—by its most financially successful practitioner. And when King says "informal," he really means it. Mixing autobiography with literary/film criticism with sheer horror-freak gush, he rambles through dozens of titles, subgenres, and theories of horror-esthetics—in a sloppy, repetitive, sometimes funny, rarely original ghoulash. . . which often descends to the level of a jivey, junior-high-school bull session. "Is horror art?" King says it is—when it hits those "phobic pressure points" as well as working on the "gross-out" level. And he traces most of the formulas back to the big three: Frankenstein, Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. (In a typically woozy lapse, King says Frankenstein "is the best written of the three," and a few pages later says that Jekyll and Hyde is "undoubtedly the best written.") Then come childhood memories of Creature from the Black Lagoon and of radio chills—followed by: roundups of horror movies with "political-social-cultural" terrors; top honors to "mythic" horror movies (e.g. Dawn of the Dead); favorite good moments from rotten horror movies; and a brief overview of horror on TV, with highest marks to Outer Limits but most fulsome attention to Twilight Zone and Rod Serling ("television ate him up"). Finally, then, King turns to horror fiction itself with long discussions of ten representative books (classics by Shirley Jackson and Ray Bradbury, as well as Anne Rivers Siddons' The House Next Door—included, perhaps, for its clear connections to the King oeuvre). Throughout, there are the familiar horror-analysis themes—psychological, social, sexual ("the sex in Dracula can be seen as the ultimate zipless fuck")—dispensed in pop style; plus defenses of the genre as essentially moral and conservative. And the resulting mishmash of rap and trivia should be an orgy of fun for horror/fantasy buffs—if not for the full measure of the King-fiction readership.

Pub Date: April 20, 1981

ISBN: 0896961001

Page Count: -

Publisher: Everest

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1981

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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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