A sparkling, insightful exploration of Shakespeare’s words and world.




How Shakespeare understood women.

The founding artistic director of Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts, Packer (Tales from Shakespeare, 2004, etc.) brings 40 years of experience as a director and actor to her invigorating examination of Shakespeare’s women. Her fascination with these roles inspired her to create a one-woman performance piece, followed by a two-actor piece, five plays and, finally, this book. At present, she has relinquished the directorship of Shakespeare & Company to tour in Women of Will with her acting partner, Nigel Gore. Packer sees a clear spiritual growth, reflected in his female characters, as Shakespeare matured, fell in love and experienced loss. His understanding and empathy, she believes, was shaped by his own experience as an actor, which afforded him “a whole knowing of body, mind, spirit, and sound.” The young writer who created the volatile, ultimately submissive Kate in Taming of the Shrew had a far different understanding of women’s desires, sexuality and craving for power than the older playwright who created the complex Desdemona, Cleopatra and Gertrude. From the Dark Lady addressed in his sonnets, writes Packer, he developed an uncommon empathy and was “able to understand the bind that an intelligent, creative, sexually desirous woman was in—and he started to write in her voice.” Women, he realized, “speak the truth at their peril.” Both Desdemona and Emilia die in Othello, a play Packer thinks is more about sexism than race; Ophelia, who speaks uncomfortable truths not only about Hamlet, but the whole royal family, kills herself; Hermione, in The Winter’s Tale, “dies because she is simply what she is—truthful, committed, generous, caring.” Throughout the book, Packer digresses in engaging, articulate interludes: about Shakespeare’s life between 1587 and 1594, a period crucial to his emotional development; about her visceral and intellectual response to inhabiting men’s roles; about the connection of language to the body.

A sparkling, insightful exploration of Shakespeare’s words and world.

Pub Date: April 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-307-70039-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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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 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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