A motley assortment of writers eloquently demonstrate that there is no single “writing process”; there are myriad.

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ALWAYS APPRENTICES

THE BELIEVER MAGAZINE PRESENTS TWENTY-TWO CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN WRITERS

Editors at Believer magazine present an eclectic series of interviews.

Some of the writers are household names—at least in the households of serious readers: Don DeLillo, Paula Fox, Maureen Howard, Will Self and Joan Didion among them. Others in the collection are known more to the literati or to small legions of zealous fans. But all have provocative things to say about writing, reading and readers, and most of the conversations are amiable, although Julie Hecht comes off as curmudgeonly and caustic at times. Several of the writers talk about their writing spaces and processes, and several say they write either longhand (Mary Gaitskill) or on a typewriter (Barry Hannah, Joy Williams). Virtually all of them reveal their biases and/or idiosyncrasies. Gary Lutz talks passionately about commas (he likes their precision); Chimomanda Ngoza Adichie points out the power of storytelling; Michael Ondaatje says he never thinks about an audience. Although most of the writers have nothing ill to say of their colleagues, Sarah Schulman zings Rick Moody and Jeffrey Eugenides (among others) but expresses gratitude to Grace Paley, Tillie Olsen and Edmund White for career help. In the whatever-happened-to category, Bruce Jay Friedman, now in his 80s, appears to wax wise and express gentle humility: “I’m really surprised by how little I know,” he says. A number of the authors complain about the demands of teaching and about the reluctance of writing students to read, and very few issue canned comments—though Mark Leyner’s “Fate is the primordial plot device” could qualify.

A motley assortment of writers eloquently demonstrate that there is no single “writing process”; there are myriad.

Pub Date: March 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-938073-25-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Believer Books/McSweeney's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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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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