A set of brave works featuring first-rate prose.

ALL I WANT TO DO IS LIVE

A COLLECTION OF CREATIVE NONFICTION

Ramsey’s (Quitter, 2014) new collection of creative nonfiction and poetry takes on the topics of depression, addiction, and loss.

Structured in four parts, including nonfiction chapbooks and zines, uncollected autobiographical essays, poems, and interviews, this volume impresses with its fresh scrutiny of both inner and outer worlds. “Farthing Street,” for example, begins by describing weeds in a lawn, “tall and heading out to seed, the view from our front stoop full of henbit, broadleaf plantain and pepperweed.” The author’s keen eye then turns inward to recollect watershed moments: a birthday present of a hunting shotgun; a first episode of depression in high school; the difficult birth of his first daughter, Tennessee. The inventory of weeds—growing in a lawn so neglected that the city of Durham, North Carolina, places a notice on the mailbox—blossoms into a full-blown essay that meanders with purpose and insight through major topics, such as his partner’s miscarriage. The essay also offers an unflinching acknowledgement of how difficult early fatherhood is, especially for a person hailing from an abusive family and suffering bouts of debilitating depression, before the speaker strikes out to mow the grass while his daughter, now a toddler, waves at him through the window. Connecting current events and states of mind with potent memories gives the book a poetic resonance as well as solid structure within chapters and across the collection. The author is determined to describe the feeling of a depressive episode—“this understanding that gloom is coming”—as best he can for the sake of readers who might benefit and for his children, who might one day experience the “sinister or beautiful” fact of genetic inheritance. The inevitability of the next spell of depression is terrifying to read about yet necessary to share: “I am lightning connecting with a transformer on a pole; I am a race horse that just broke its leg.” To one of the interview questions, the author responds with a great understatement: “I am not a talker, but I can write.”

A set of brave works featuring first-rate prose.

Pub Date: May 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-939899-28-6

Page Count: 169

Publisher: Pioneers Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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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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