Sometimes fun and often instructive, though occasionally sluggish.

THE GENIUS OF LANGUAGE

FIFTEEN WRITERS REFLECT ON THEIR MOTHER TONGUE

Fifteen original essays of varying quality from writers who learned English as a second language and now employ it more or less full-time.

The purpose of this uneven collection, writes editor/critic Lesser (Nothing Remains the Same: Rereading and Remembering, 2002, etc.), is “to uncover the sources of writing in writers I admired.” Okay. Give points, first of all, for diversity. First languages here include Bangla and Chinese, Italian and Czech, Yiddish, and Korean. Several authors believe that their native language made learning English more difficult; Koreans negotiate the first-person singular in much different fashion, notes Ha-yun Jung, and English has sounds that do not exist in Korean. Bharati Mukherjee (Bangla) envies the tenses available in English. Some of the writers, unsurprisingly, seem to have as keen an interest in promoting their books as in talking about their first language. But others present engaging ideas in finely crafted, even lovely, sentences. Bert Keizer (Dutch) admits that he initially found the writing of English to be “like trying to plough a stretch of marble,” while Luc Sante (French) avers, “Elegance and precision are necessary allies; together they indicate the presence of truth.” In one of the most entertaining essays, Gary Shteyngert (Russian) links words and ways as he wistfully recalls how the popular culture of America lured him into the language. Ariel Dorfman’s piece about being bilingual (Spanish and English) must have been fun to contemplate but emerges as awkward and off-putting; he sends readers back and forth so frequently between text and massive footnotes that his clever point about two perspectives is lost in the underbrush. The collection closes with a touching and humorous piece by the late Leonard Michaels (Yiddish), who manages to put Elmore Leonard and John Webster in the same sentence—probably a first.

Sometimes fun and often instructive, though occasionally sluggish.

Pub Date: July 27, 2004

ISBN: 0-375-42238-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2004

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

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

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

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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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