Lectures on Shakespeare delivered by British poet and critic Auden in 1946 at the New School for Social Research in New York, carefully reconstructed by Kirsch from students’ notes.
While Auden provides a thorough scholarly interpretation of Shakespeare’s works in chronological order, he also takes every opportunity to discuss them in a much broader historical and cultural context. He shares his impressions of American society, draws parallels between Richard III and Hitler, and quotes profusely from a wide range of writers and philosophers (including Dante, Eliot, and Kierkegaard). The Merchant of Venice provokes his evaluation of Elizabethan anti-Semitism (which, according to Auden, was less racial than xenophobic). In connection with As You Like It, Auden speaks of pastoral conventions, drawing on Hesiod, Virgil, Rousseau, and contemporary literary theory. He does not hesitate to voice extremely critical opinions: He declares The Taming of the Shrew a complete failure, dismisses Twelfth Night as an “unpleasant play,” and declares The Merry Wives of Windsor to be “dull” (proposing that his students listen to Verdi’s Falstaff rather than read the play that inspired it). Auden also finds fault with Hamlet: He believes that Hamlet’s boredom compels him to act theatrically, and he suggests that the play was written out of spite against actors. However, as Auden repeatedly emphasizes, only minor poets are always technically perfect, because they always tread upon familiar ground. The true genius, who explores new forms of expression as a matter of course, inevitably risks failure. Shakespeare received his training with chronicle plays, and he drew important lessons from history concerning the interdependence of characters and situations. He withstood the test of artistic freedom, creating his plays against the ill-defined and amorphous conventions of Elizabethan drama. And, most important of all, his themes are so universal that his plays can appeal to general audiences even today.
Overcoming the temptation to create his own Shakespeare, Auden penetrates to the very core of Shakespeare’s originality, expressing himself in crystalline analytical prose.
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").
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)