Uneven, but with enough stunning moments to make this a must for avid readers.



Now nearing 50, literary critic Lesser (The Amateur, 1999, etc.) revisits books she loved in her youth and asks: What kind of person was I then? What have I become? To what extent—if any—did literature contribute?

The author declares early on that “vertigo” is perhaps the best word to describe her new encounters with old literary friends from Don Quixote to A Hazard of New Fortunes, so it’s only appropriate that she ends this engaging volume with an essay about Hitchcock’s Vertigo, which she has seen many times and greatly admires. In a tone that varies from playful to pedantic, earnest to nostalgic to analytical, Lesser proceeds to reread and react to works she selected by applying several criteria: it must be “strong”; she must remember her first reading of it; and she must derive from it some sort of fresh insight or experience. Some books do not surprise by their appearance here (The Education of Henry Adams, The Tempest, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Paradise Lost); others do (I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith, and Black Dogs, by Ian McEwan). Lesser declares that neither Anna Karenina nor Middlemarch retains its magic for her; she decides not to reread Catcher in the Rye, and she now finds Caliban more appealing than she once did, Prospero less so. Some of her observations are riveting, as when she says that Don Quixote and Huck Finn are in fundamental ways more alive for us than either Cervantes or Twain, and her thoughts on The Winter’s Tale are illuminating. But not every insight is a revelation. Lesser labels Richard II “relatively obscure” and flaunts her résumé like a nervous job applicant, making certain we notice her years at Harvard, Cambridge, Berkeley, and the Columbia School of Journalism. Oh, by the way, she’s read Howells in the bathtub in a Venice hotel.

Uneven, but with enough stunning moments to make this a must for avid readers.

Pub Date: May 7, 2002

ISBN: 0-618-08293-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2002

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet



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

Did you like this book?

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

Did you like this book?