A collection of recent newspaper columns on the homes of New York residents illuminates the ways in which the city has (and hasn’t) changed.
The byline of Rosenblum (Boulevard of Dreams: Heady Times, Heartbreak, and Hope along the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, 2009) may not be familiar even to regular readers of the New York Times, and the column she was the last to write no longer exists. Yet these 40 pieces have greater staying power than many collections of newspaper columns and show the ongoing fascination with the subject of how, where and why people live where they live. These expanded selections from the newspaper’s Real Estate section are less concerned with that market—prices and square footage, though such details occasionally highlight the pieces—than they are with the stories of the inhabitants. “I wanted to use the column to write stories,” writes Rosenblum. “I wanted to use the physical nature of a home as a wedge to delve into personal history, and to produce, as one reader nicely put it, biography through real estate.” The results, she continues, “offer a mosaic of domestic life in one of the great cities of the world.” There are examples of shelter voyeurism that will leave readers in other parts of the country amazed at how much some are willing to pay to live in New York (often for so little space). But mainly, the interest in the home reflects the interesting people who inhabit it: the two clowns who must combine living quarters and rehearsal space (so many of these stories find residences serving double duty), the woman who rescues and nurses ailing kittens, the artists in their communal building, the stepdaughter of a famous author. Whether the living space in question is a fresh start or a link to the past, the thread of continuity throughout is that “the story of urban renewal has been written, rewritten, and rewritten yet again.”
Some intriguing stories better read the way newspaper columns are published—one at a time—than as an extended series in one sitting.
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").
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)