INSIDE THE SKY

A MEDITATION ON FLIGHT

Atlantic Monthly foreign correspondent Langewiesche (Cutting for Sign, 1993; Sahara Unveiled, 1996), himself an experienced pilot, explores the pleasures and challenges of flight in seven essays that are alternately philosophical, personal, and journalistic. Flight’s greatest gift, Langewiesche says, is to let us look around. The book itself takes a while to get off the ground but begins to soar with —The Turn,— in which Langewiesche vividly explores the aerodynamics of keeping aloft in layman’s terms, tracing as well the evolution of instrumentation for airplanes. —On a Bombay Night— and “Valujet” consider, in turn, the 1978 crash due to pilot error of an Air India 747 shortly after takeoff from Bombay airport and the 1996 Valujet accident in the Florida Everglades, blamed on a new scourge called a “systems error.” (In the Valujet crash, unused oxygen canisters shipped by mistake were ignited, causing a catastrophic fire soon after takeoff.) “Inside an Angry Sky” recalls the dismal days the author spent as a cargo pilot and details his continued interest in storm flying, or what he calls “hunting for bad weather.” In “Control,” Langewiesche spends some time in the control tower of Newark International Airport, whose runways are some of the busiest on earth, and he witnesses firsthand the animosity between the FAA, which makes the rules of aviation, and the controllers, whose job it is to keep the traffic moving. Systems accidents, overburdened air-control systems, deregulation, and competition can, of course, be blamed for these negative developments. The author raises the possibility of re-regulation, but suspects that the positive effects on safety would not be worth the negative effects on society, which would be “inflationary” and “anti-egalitarian.” A realist who says he rejects early flier-author Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s dreamy romanticism, Langewiesche is informative on aspects of the current commercial aviation scene, and his pared-down style conveys a refreshing humility and respect for flying. (Author tour)

Pub Date: June 8, 1998

ISBN: 0-679-42983-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1998

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

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

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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