THE JOURNALS OF THORNTON WILDER

1939-1961

These journals are in no way a substitute for the autobiography Wilder never wrote but, on the 10th anniversary of his death, they provide an engrossing journey through the landscapes of one of America's most wide-ranging literary minds of the mid-20th century. In these leisure-time jottings Wilder recorded his observations on America's cultural heritage, on concepts for future projects (all too frequently works later abandoned, but which sometimes sprouted as brief segments of others), on his evaluation of contemporary writers, on the basics of a novel, and so on. What these journals lack is the usual stuff of diaries: the I, the who I met, the where I was. We never learn what Wilder is doing from day to day, only what he is thinking. He pops up in mundane and exotic locales: Saratoga Springs, Daytona Beach, Quebec, St. Moritz, Spain. He doesn't tell us the purpose of these travels, nor his impressions of the places he visited and the people he met. (Vivian Leigh gives him a fresh insight on Anna Karenina. So much for Vivian Leigh.) But if they lack anecdotes, gossip or local color, the journals are mentally evocative and wonderously readable. While working on The Skin of Our Teeth, he mulls over the age-old convention of regarding the actress as "courtesan," a phenomenon he attributes to the fact that, by appearing on stage, the actress violates society's taboos against women presenting themselves as "accessible" and "inviting." The actress "is delivered into the hands, into the thought-impulse life of the audience by the fact that she is on stage. . .as Woman, as prey, victim, partner, and connivance. . ." He concludes this entry with: "The above written while mildly drunk on a quart of Bordeaux." Following WW II service, Wilder devoted considerable thought to the series of lectures on American literature he had agreed to present at Harvard. Here we see Wilder as literary historian, evaluating and re-evaluating Melville, Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, et al.—gnawing over his concepts, reworking them, worrying. After completing the text of his Thoreau lecture, he writes: "I reap now the whole harvest of my presumption in embarking on such a large subject. . . Are those ideas (in my hands) not ideas but little grabby maulings of notions that completely elude me?" Opining that "most of the time Melville is an atrocious writer," he adds: "At the bottom of it all is an extremely disordered man, living in an age and environment which offered him nothing he could understand except the vastness of its life-engagement—and that he misunderstood." Many of these entries involve Wilder's struggles with works he never completed, most notably his metaphysical drama The Emporium. He writes, rewrites, exalts, criticizes and despairs. It is not likely that Wilder's journals will stir much interest among the rank-and-file of readers. For the Wilder specialist, however, they will provide a rich lode of new information to mine and assay. And for those readers who have enjoyed his writings, the sound of his clear, literate voice speaking once again from the page should be a welcome reunion.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 1985

ISBN: 0300040547

Page Count: 380

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1985

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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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