A great deal of this material is perplexing, demanding, and obscure, but the author’s beautiful writing is always well worth...



A 900-page Gass-ian celebration.

This massive selection of writings by the late Gass (Eyes: Novellas and Stories, 2015, etc.), chosen by the author shortly before he died in 2017, is a fitting grand finale to an impressive and influential career. The 50 selections in the book, the oldest from 1958, are divided into four categories: Introduction, Fiction, Artists, and Theory. In “Fifty Literary Pillars,” about literature that influenced his own, his description of Jorge Luis Borges could also describe Gass: “Another amazing mind. Here is the consciousness of a devoted, playful, skeptical intelligence, a man made civilized by the library, as if to prove it can be done.” In “Philosophy and the Form of Fiction” (1970), Gass writes that “forms of fiction serve as the material upon which further forms can be imposed. Indeed, many of the so-called antinovels are really metafictions.” A whole generation of writers practiced metafiction: William Gaddis' The Recognitions was a “thunderclap,” and Gass also explores John Hawkes, John Barth, Donald Barthelme, and Robert Coover. As a philosophy professor at Washington University, metafiction was a wellspring for his criticism. As he writes at the end of “The Book as a Container of Consciousness,” it “remains for the reader to realize the text, not only by reachieving the consciousness some works create…but by appreciating the unity of book/body and book/mind that the best books bring about.” As a fiction writer, Gass was regularly praised for his subtle prose style and daunting ideas, but the books sold poorly. The Tunnel was too immense and labyrinthine, In the Heart of the Heart of the Country was too dense and lyrical, and his novella Willie Masters’ Lonesome Wife (not included here) pushed its prose to the breaking point. Literature is finally catching up with him, and this compendious, literary extravaganza should spark a Gass revival.

A great deal of this material is perplexing, demanding, and obscure, but the author’s beautiful writing is always well worth a visit.

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-101-87474-5

Page Count: 944

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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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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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.


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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