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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SLEEPERS

An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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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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