A skimming visit to the cultural-political dichotomy incarnated by the Napa and Sonoma valleys.
They may be neighbors, but they have gone their separate ways: Napa went upscale, elegant, and refined; Sonoma kept it real and welcomed the bohemians. Journalist Deutschman (The Second Coming of Steve Jobs, 2000) embraces this bifurcation—the irreverent and anachronistic vs. New Money, the innocents vs. the soulless, elitism vs. small town, residents vs. weekenders, Sebastiani vs. Mondavi—and quickly throws his lot with the free spirits and iconoclasts. They are an appealing group: subversive, mischievous, and fully aware that they are on to something very special in their Sonoma Valley homes. The Napa-ites are far less attractive, typified by the notorious Wine Auction and restaurants in which the farmers who supply the tony vegetables couldn't afford to eat. Of course, they make excruciatingly easy targets: “The plutocrats . . . could they ever imagine that they are making pilgrimages to listen to trailer people?” Readers may be irked or uncomfortable with this neat parting of the waters, figuring that maybe there is something under the crust that ought to be poked at. Not Deutschman, who operates in only a small amount of the acreage he could explore, spending most of his time following a local election and the fate of a couple of land-use initiatives. These are not uninteresting, and their impact will be critical to the future of Sonoma. But readers will wish for other impressions than those radiated by Deutschman's small circle of friends. When a small-scale farmer suggests that a ballot initiative isn't “as simple as people are making it out to be. People haven't looked at it from a whole perspective,” Deutschman characteristically fails to pull that comment up and thoroughly examine its roots. The characters and mindsets he portrays here are overly flogged and easily pigeonholed; a sampling from deeper down, where it might be democratically messy and maybe even revelatory, would have been nice.
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)
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").