Glorious distillations of a capacious mind and heart.



Nobel laureate Szymborska (Miracle Fair, 2001, etc.) reprints nearly a hundred pithy pieces about books from her many years as a newspaper columnist in Poland.

But don’t call them reviews. “I am and wish to remain a reader, an amateur, and a fan,” the poet writes. “Anyone insisting on ‘reviews’ will incur my displeasure.” Fair enough. In these brief nonreviews, Szymborska uses her eclectic reading habits to comment on everything from witchcraft trials to wall calendars. She does not, indeed, say much about the quality of the books at hand, nor does she often regurgitate or recommend. What she does do is allow her reading to jump-start her philosopher’s mind, her humorist’s imagination, and her poet’s pen. Irony abounds. In a piece about scientists, she quips, “From time to time people do appear who have a particularly strong resistance to obvious facts.” Along the way she takes on Carl Jung (didn’t he realize that people were telling him stories, not dreams?), beauty-obsessed women, deer hunters, biographers, autobiographers, poets overly interested in prosody, extraterrestrials, wax museums, Disney, tyrants’ abuses of history, anti-smokers (she’s a proud puffer), nudity, and home repair. Here are piquant disquisitions on the mysteries of talent (Hitchcock is her exemplar), on the poetry of Czelaw Milosz (which she greatly appreciates), on the absurdities of pseudo-science. She admires Thomas Mann and Samuel Pepys but mistrusts Dale Carnegie, wonders about the daily lives of Neanderthals, expatiates on the beauties of Polish birds and Andersen’s fairy tales, speculates about the meaning of life and death to a paramecium, worries about violence and about the psychological demands we make of our dogs. She recognizes that home-improvement books are wasted on the practically challenged, constructs a hilarious verbal family tree of Cleopatra, and observes that the three pictographs forming the word “peace” in Chinese are “already a microscopic poem.”

Glorious distillations of a capacious mind and heart.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-15-100660-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2002

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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

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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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