A literary milestone: essential to any student of Plath’s work and, by extension, of modern literature.

THE LETTERS OF SYLVIA PLATH VOLUME 1

1940-1956

A monumental gathering, in the first of two volumes, of the scattered correspondence of the now iconic—and canonical—poet and novelist.

Although her name is a byword for tragedy, Plath (1932-1963) was a talented writer whose life merits more currency than as the depressed wife of British poet Ted Hughes. Much of Plath’s promise is revealed in this collection of letters from 1940 until her marriage to Hughes in 1956. These letters alone serve to solidify her reputation as a skilled, thoughtful observer of the world and her own psyche. As Plath scholars Steinberg and Kukil note, an early collection of Plath’s correspondence, published in 1975, was incomplete and marked by editorial omissions and alterations; their aim in this project is “to present a complete and historically accurate text of all the known, existing letters to a full range of her correspondents.” In this, they have been remarkably successful. If some of the letters, especially the early ones, are of the mundane sort (“my complexion is showing signs of improvement daily,” writes the self-conscious teenager), this inaugural volume makes for a multifaceted portrait of a thoughtful young woman who might have gone on to even greater accomplishments than she did—and these, we learn here, extended to art and philately as well as literature. Knowing how the story ends prompts readers, of course, to seek signs of Plath’s later difficulties in these early pieces, many of which are of a confessional nature and written as if with an audience in mind. Indeed, such signs are to be found, as when the collegiate Plath writes to her mother, in a time commemorated by her novel The Bell Jar, “the crux of the matter is my attitude toward life—hinging on my science course. I have practically considered committing suicide to get out of it….I have become really frantic: small choices and events seem insurmountable obstacles, the core of life has fallen apart.”

A literary milestone: essential to any student of Plath’s work and, by extension, of modern literature.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-274043-4

Page Count: 1424

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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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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