ELIZABETH I

A mildly revisionist political biography of the last Tudor monarch. As presented by MacCaffrey (History/Harvard), the resolutely unsentimental Elizabeth I is less the indomitable, manifestly destined virago of English national myth than a wary practitioner of royal Realpolitik, gingerly testing the waters before plotting any course in the unpredictable seas of late Renaissance statecraft. In fact, given the conventional heroic picture of the Elizabethan Age, the Virgin Queen proves a surprisingly cautious, even timid, helmsperson here, loath to commit her authority to a consistent path in domestic politics or to expend her nation's slim human and material resources on overseas adventures. She appears as a compulsive consensus-builder always conscious of the fragility of her constituency and the challenges to her authority posed by her sex, the religious schisms still racking the English polity, and the constant intrigues of her Scottish cousin and rival, Mary Stuart. MacCaffrey organizes his study well, defining and dealing with each of the major political issues of Elizabeth's reign in turn—notably, the domestic religious situation, its international repercussions, and Elizabeth's interactions with Mary and the monarch's other rivals, suitors, and aspiring successors. In the author's convincing portrait, we see a political establishment in the throes of a sometimes uncertain transition between a waning feudalism and a nascent, still very uncertain, modernity. But the almost exclusively political focus here threatens to engulf its human subject in the sometimes bewildering machinations of Tudor diplomacy: MacCaffrey's speculations, for instance, that the spectacular theatricality of the Elizabethan court ``probably helped to fulfil the emotional needs of a lonely and isolated human being'' are an exception to his strict reliance on the documentary record. A solid, scholarly study that will please historians—but leave latter-day monarchists still searching for the human essence of the fascinating Elizabeth I. (Illustrations)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-340-56167-X

Page Count: 472

Publisher: Routledge

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1993

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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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