Travel-writer Corn (The New York Times, etc.) goes to Indonesia to satisfy his lifelong curiosity about the vast, 13,677- island archipelago. Setting out with only a vague itinerary and a determination to take travel as it comes, Corn begins his adventures in Jakarta, a teeming city of eight million, where he is accosted by transvestites; and concludes them in Padang, a port city where he stays overnight at an isolated, near-empty hotel run by a coquettish middle-aged Englishwoman. In between are stops in Bali, a legendary paradise now overrun with Australian tourists; Sumba, where a Chinese guide gives the author a tour by motorbike; Timor, where he has a run-in with local authorities regarding off-limits territories; Kupang, the island where Captain Bligh landed after the Bounty mutineers set him adrift; and the now nearly forgotten Spice Islands, which once were fiercely fought over for their precious crops of cloves, nutmeg, and mace. Many of Corn's descriptions are wonderfully fresh (``The skipper is a rail-thin man, sleek as a sea bird and blackened by the sun, squatting on his haunches and sipping his tea'') and many of his anecdotes are charming; the quality of delight that he describes as characteristic of the Indonesian people is mirrored in his writing. He also provides just enough background information to clarify but not stultify. But some of the book's strengths are also its weaknesses: This is very much a once-over-lightly account, with the narrator hopping from island to island so quickly and frequently that it is often hard to keep either him or Indonesia in clear focus. A map is also sorely missing. Still, a fresh, well-written account of a journey through an often-overlooked region.
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").