An avalanche of Lane, resident wag at The New Yorker—and how enjoyable it is to be buried under it all.
“I am merely stating an argument,” says the critic. “Freedom to disagree is part of the fun.” A review, he continues, should be “a sensory report on the kind of experience into which [moviegoers] will be wading.” And that’s what he gives us: Lane out there sinking his arm up to the pit in some book, film, or personality, returning from the briars and swamps of culture with a reading of the atmospheric conditions. The writing is debonair, even when he sticks in the knife and gives it a twist. The magazine gives him enough room to stretch his legs, but not so much that he doesn’t have to work at compression; deadlines loom, so the impressions are reactive, but don’t loom so closely that he can’t consider his lines of attack, humor, and benediction. It’s a doorstopper of a tome, and so there are bound to be some slow moments. (“James Bond is doing just fine; it is Ian Fleming who needs help”— too much help, it appears, to warrant an explanation.) And Lane occasionally overdoes the humor in pieces like “Astronauts,” where the taglines fall over one another. Almost always, though, he finds the balance of brains to laughs: Ayn Rand’s Howard Roark, for example, “wants to be a universal life force who happens to specialize in architecture.” His prose swings with the sheer exuberance of someone having a good time and inviting us along, perhaps to spend some moments with a bunch of hairy gents dressed as nuns caroling, “For here you are, standing there, loving me,” and then to explain just how these participants in a “Singalong-a-Sound-of-Music” are involved in the Proustian principle of memory.
Another guy who knows how to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, thoroughly unpredictable as to whether he’ll administer pain or pleasure.
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").