LONE STAR SWING

ON THE TRAIL OF BOB WILLS AND HIS TEXAS PLAYBOYS

This first nonfiction outing by the award-winning Scottish fiction writer McLean (Bucket of Tongues, 1994; Bunker Man, 1997) is sure to make some waves on this side of the Atlantic. McLean took the money he received for winning the Somerset Maugham Award and went to Turkey, Tex., of all places, to attend the annual Bob Wills Festival. Along the way, he also tried to trace the past that Wills, a pioneer of western swing, left scattered all across the Lone Star State. Laughingly chronicling his progress, McLean equals the best of American road literature. The principal source of his humor? The nearly constant problems Texans faced in deciphering McLean’s Orkney-Scottish accent. A particularly fine moment in the saga: McLean’s telephone conversation with an aged, nearly deaf swing musician who can only understand half of what the author is saying. McLean is also able to offer gentle yet pointed observations on American culture in general. His fascination with tabloids such as the Weekly World News (he claims to take it literally), his obsession with right-wing talk radio, and his enjoyment of such specifically Texan events as the annual Presidio Onion Festival display McLean’s biting sense of humor, which distinguishes his book from the mere music survey or the everyday travelogue. But of course, music is still a subject here. McLean confesses himself to be left cold by Austin—regarded by many in the music industry as the music city in Texas. Instead, he finds the smaller towns, where Bob Wills and his band members left their legacy, to be far more inspiring. If, like many another postmodern narrator, McLean often prefers anticlimax over climax in his writing, it’s because existentialism made him do it. A funny and charming look—through Scottish eyes—at Texas as a microcosm of America. (illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: April 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-393-31756-0

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1998

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

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").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

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)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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