Candid and perceptive last words by a treasured writer.




Thoughtful reflections on the writing life from the late author (1929-2018).

Le Guin (No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters, 2017, etc.), the winner of a host of awards during her prolific career, likened a successful interview to “a good badminton rally,” where the birdie floats effortlessly between the players. Her three conversations with writer, editor, and radio show and podcast host Naimon felt good from the start, a process of mutual discovery and intelligent exchanges about fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, three genres to which Le Guin devoted much of her career (she was also an essayist, children’s book author, playwright, and translator). The author admitted feeling most comfortable talking about fiction, the subject of her recent book Steering the Craft, to which Naimon frequently referred as they discussed such writerly concerns as grammar, sentence rhythm, and point of view. Use of the present tense, common in contemporary fiction, results, Le Guin said, in “flashlight focus,” where readers see only what is directly ahead. It is “great for high suspense, high drama, cut-to-the-chase writing,” but otherwise, she found the authorial point of view (a term she preferred to “omniscient”) “the most flexible and useful.” Le Guin cited Virginia Woolf, Tolstoy, Orwell, Grace Paley, Margaret Atwood, and José Saramago (a late discovery, she admitted) as writers she particularly admired. Although more tentative discussing poetry, she conceded that her work reflected an immersion in Taoism and Buddhism “so deep in me and everything I do.” A.E. Housman, Rilke, and Gabriela Mistral, whom she felt was unjustly ignored, earned her special praise. Le Guin’s political views surfaced strongly in the discussion about nonfiction, and Naimon asked about writing across differences of race, gender, or culture: “When does an attempt to understand become co-optation?” Acknowledging the complexity of the question, Le Guin responded, “eternal vigilance is required.” The conversations are interspersed with excerpts from Le Guin’s work and that of other writers discussed.

Candid and perceptive last words by a treasured writer.

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-941040-99-7

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Tin House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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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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