You write what you are, asserts Stegner, one of those truths no artist escapes.


Thoughts on writing—his own and a healthy selection from those he admires—from the late Stegner (Marking the Sparrow’s Fall, 1998, etc.), who along his protean way started the Stanford Writing Program.

Stegner (1913–93) is not especially concerned here with how to write but rather with what to get at when writing: “an artifact, something shaped and created and capable of communicating whatever wisdom it has arrived at.” In these eight essays, one of which includes the short story “Goin’ to Town,” he makes no bones about the seriousness of the matter. There’s no place for the pretentious or the vain, for a piece of fiction is “a trial of the writer's whole understanding and a reflection of his whole feeling and knowing”; the writer is “a vendor of the sensuous particulars of life, a perceiver and handler of things,” on a search for meaning, wonder, discovery, involvement. This comes out of life, experiential and inspiriting; the writer arrives at something to say of value and insight, takes the chaos of reality and works it into the picture without blurring the artistic frame: distilled, sharpened, purified. When teaching, “encourage the will to explore, plus impress upon the inexperienced a few of the dos and don’ts . . . certain tested literary tools and techniques and strategies and stances and ways of getting at the narrative essence.” To give advice, Stegner calls up the heavy artillery: Conrad, Frost, Hemingway. Sometimes he’s high on imagery (“like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting,” writes Frost), other times he extols the value of practice and rewriting, cutting the prose clean, honing the exigent art of seeing straight, taking what you want to say and stating it with the aim of “communicating not only its meaning but its quintessential emotion, the thing that made it important to you in the first place.”

You write what you are, asserts Stegner, one of those truths no artist escapes.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-14-200147-3

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2002

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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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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