A fine addition to an important body of work that looks more and more Nobel-worthy as the years pass.


Sharp insights abound in this gathering of 11 closely related essays on fictional technique and the attitudes underlying it, by the eminent Peruvian-born author of such contemporary classics as Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (1982) and The Feast of the Goat (2001).

This is ostensibly a series of letters to a fledgling novelist (about whom we learn precisely nothing), who’s doubtless a fictional device himself. Vargas Llosa amiably pours forth, nevertheless, the wisdom accumulated during a lifetime of writing, reading, and thinking about the impulse toward literary creation (“. . . a deep dissatisfaction with real life . . .”), the roots of fiction in each writer’s own life and opinions, and specific problems of creating and balancing form and content, as solved by such masters as Flaubert, Melville, Faulkner, and fellow Latin Americans Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, and Alejo Carpentier. The finest chapters are those in which Vargas Llosa addresses specific technical issues by analyzing relevant classic texts: e.g., the differences between chronological and psychological time as expressed in Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” Joyce’s Ulysses, and Mexican Augusto Monterroso’s hilarious single-sentence masterpiece, “The Dinosaur”; relationships between the real and the fantastic in James’s The Turn of the Screw and Woolf’s Orlando; and “Chinese box” construction” as perfected in The Thousand and One Nights and Don Quixote. If he actually exists, Vargas Llosa’s “young novelist” is fortunate indeed to profit from such lightly worn learning. If he doesn’t, the rest of us can be grateful for this relaxed tour through the provinces of the fiction-maker’s imagination. And the general reader will be happy to be pointed toward such comparatively little-known watershed works as João Guimarães Rosa’s The Devil to Pay in the Backlands, Juan Carlos Onetti’s A Brief Life, and the enchanting medieval epic Tirant lo Blanc.

A fine addition to an important body of work that looks more and more Nobel-worthy as the years pass.

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-374-11916-3

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2002

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?



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

Did you like this book?