A scholarly study of Jewish sexuality that is neither sexy nor particularly Jewish. Here, Biale (Power and Powerlessness in Jewish History, 1986) appears to have lost his way in the murkier realms of philosophy and theology. He's at his best when dealing with the sociological and psychological realms of sexuality and powerlessness, as noted in the nervous passions of Woody Allen, Lenny Bruce, and Erica Jong. Elsewhere, though, his central argument sees Eros in Judaism as ``the struggle between contradictory attractions...the story of a profoundly ambivalent culture.'' Biale consistently misses the subtleties of the Oriental, Jewish paradox of erotic spirituality with his Occidental, secular Bible-critic's sensibility that finds only contradictions. He therefore thinks it scandalous (rather than glorious) that King David's lineage is built on the incestuous seductions of the gentiles Tamar and Ruth (who lust only for progeny). Similarly, Biale cannot see how the literal level of the ``Song of Songs'' feeds the spiritual level with its erotic yearning for the Other. The failure to see that classical Judaism is closer to the Kama Sutra than to the teachings of St. Paul is one thing, but Biale is guilty of errors (``Jacob himself associated with the affirmation of intermarriage'') and of contempt for traditionalists who don't share his view that Judaism is a derivative amalgam of Canaanite and Greco-Roman culture. His subjectivity is all too perceptible. The extensive notes and bibliography help document shifting attitudes toward romance and marriage, but a topic like this deserves a little passion.
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)