Witty, reflective, opinionated essays from a writer with the ability to “laugh in dark times.”



A new collection of personal essays from a self-proclaimed “depressive pessimist” and “angry, bird-loving misfit.”

Franzen’s (Purity, 2015, etc.) third collection of recently published essays and speeches sparkles with intelligent and insightful forays into a limited range of subjects. The opening piece, “The Essay in Dark Times,” could function as a primer for the book. We might be “living in an essayistic golden age,” while the personal essay “is in eclipse.” After recounting lessons learned while working on an essay with a wise New Yorker editor, the author jumps to bashing a “short-fingered vulgarian” and his “lying, bullying tweets,” concluding with his bird obsession and global warming, the “biggest issue in all of human history.” In “Why Birds Matter,” Franzen lovingly describes falcons, roadrunners, and albatrosses, among others. “Wild birds matter,” Franzen writes, because “they are our last, best connection to a natural world that is otherwise receding.” In another piece, the author describes his visit to South America to observe the beleaguered Amazon Conservation Association in action. In “May Your Life Be Ruined,” he chronicles his travels to Egypt to painfully watch migratory bird-killing with Bedouin falcon trappers. There’s literature here, too. In the expected writer-to-writers advice essay, he offers up one page of 10 pithy, odd dos and don’ts—e.g., “You see more sitting still than chasing after.” Franzen resuscitates Edith Wharton, praising her “most generously realized” The Age of Innocence and The House of Mirth, in which she “embraces her new-fashioned divorce plot as zestfully as Nabokov embraces pedophilia in Lolita.” There’s also the affectionate “A Friendship,” in which the author praises William Vollmann’s work ethic, vast projects, fine style, and “hunger for beautiful form.” The last, titular essay about a voyage to Antarctica is worth the cover price.

Witty, reflective, opinionated essays from a writer with the ability to “laugh in dark times.”

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-374-14793-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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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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