Lit throughout by the bright star of wonder.

A SLIP OF THE KEYBOARD

COLLECTED NONFICTION

The celebrated creator of the Discworld series of fantasy novels offers an eclectic collection of pieces and speeches from as early as the 1970s.

Pratchett (The Long Mars, 2014, etc.), who has Alzheimer’s disease, writes often about his enemy-illness in this thematic collection. The author “went public” with his illness at the time of his diagnosis and has proved a worthy adversary of the illness and advocate for increased medical research. Throughout this inimitable collection, a number of traits and themes emerge. His biting—often self-deprecating—wit is evident on nearly every page, as is his wonder at being the literary celebrity that he is. He most assuredly realizes and is profoundly grateful for his stellar fortune, and he defends his genre both with humor and with passion (he believes that most fiction is fantasy) and repeatedly credits his predecessors and literary mentors, especially Tolkien, whose Lord of the Rings, he tells us, he used to reread every summer. Pratchett writes about his own religious beliefs—or, rather, lack of them. “I don’t think I’ve found God,” he wrote in 2008, “but I may have seen where gods come from.” He also rails against aspects of society he finds repellant; number crunchers and warmongers come in for some special disdain. The author has keen thoughts about education, as well, arguing that we should first erect a library and then build a school around it, and he blasts those who ignore the health of the environment. There is some repetition—not unexpected in a collection ranging over several decades. He writes continually about his affection for The Wind in the Willows, a book that captured and changed him in boyhood. He offers some advice for would-be fantasy writers (“You need to know how your world works”) and reminds us that at the heart of the genre is hope. Pratchett’s close friend and fellow literary celebrity Neil Gaiman provides the foreword.

Lit throughout by the bright star of wonder.

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-0385538305

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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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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