TOLSTOY'S DICTAPHONE

TECHNOLOGY AND THE MUSE

Stepping down a bit from his Arnoldian brand of technophobia, Birkerts (Gutenberg Elegies, 1994) gathers fellow writers' essays together to confront the wired future. The hot topic of the digitally driven decline of reading makes for a timely inauguration for Graywolf's new Forum series, with new essays from Paul West, Mark Slouka, Alice Fulton, Wendy Lesser, Albert Goldbarth, and Birkerts himself. Tolstoy discarded his dictaphone (a present from Thomas Edison) because it was ``too dreadfully exciting,'' but most of the writers here find technology simply dreadful, though a few are caught up in its excitement. Askold Melnyczuk, who supplies the Tolstoy anecdote, leads the reactionary pack with such shrill opinions as, ``Technology is class war by other means.'' Paul West is no less impassioned but far wittier as he divulges his chaotic typewriter- and paper-driven method of composition and skewers the fading of literary culture. In another, more reflective essay on the writing life, Jonathan Franzen defends the obsolete, whether technological, cultural, or creative. Birkerts's contribution is a stump speech on the intellectual value of reading on paper as opposed to computer screen. Not all these writers are averse to technology: Wendy Lesser describes her enthrallment with e-mail; Alice Fulton finds genuine benefit (and personal relevance) in researching her family's rare medical condition through the Internet; and Carole Maso riffs engagingly on hypertext's revolutionary potentials. Only Robert Pinsky, who has both translated Dante and worked on a CD-ROM ``electronic novel,'' demonstrates a knowledge of science's nuts and bolts, much less its perspective; his essay reflects on his engineer father-in-law's experience of the 20th century's technological quantum leaps. Though Birkerts packs this forum on the side of literary Ludditism, these varied responses to technophilia and the Information Age still have plenty of individual charm.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 1-55597-248-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1996

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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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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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