A revealing if idiosyncratic debut study of the Bard by an actor who has played Shakespeare’s characters—including Hamlet, Romeo, and King Lear—from coast to coast and overseas.
Who is Shakespeare? The answer involves “great uncertainty,” van Griethuysen declares. So it’s better to ask “What is Shakespeare?” with the aim of interpreting “the plays themselves.” His response to the question has a provocatively robust actorly bias. Van Griethuysen places an emphasis on Shakespeare as an “auditory experience”: “always the ear must come first and that, of course, means that Shakespeare is meant for actors, skilled actors.” Influenced by Aesthetic Realism founder Eli Siegel, the author goes on to suggest that Shakespeare is “true poetry,” which he defines as “more honest language than that to which we are accustomed in our everyday lives.” The author draws on his personal experiences of performance and his understanding of specific characters, such as Shylock and Falstaff, along with questions of directorial interpretation and costume, to develop his argument. His writing style is forthright and thought-provoking, demonstrating how a lifetime of treading the boards has shaped his understanding of Shakespeare: “Doing Lear, with five performances on the weekend, I knew intimately that the author of the play knew how to construct it so that the actor who was Lear would have time for rest when he needed it.” This reads as valuable insider knowledge, offering a refreshing divergence from typical academic writing. However, the study is not without its flaws. This comparatively short work is heavily padded with long excerpts from Shakespeare, on one occasion including an entire scene unnecessarily. The arc of the thesis is also incomplete, as van Griethuysen makes insufficient effort to provide a conclusion that sums up or ties together his various ideas. The text would also have benefitted from a more thorough copy edit—apart from its occasionally untidy punctuation, the book incorrectly refers to Jaques, one of Duke Senior’s Arden exiles in As You Like It as “Jacques.” For fans of van Griethuysen and those wishing to understand Shakespeare from a seasoned actor’s perspective, this will prove an insightful read, excusing some obvious missteps.
Passionately argued but lacking attention to detail and the conclusion the book deserves.
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").
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)