L’Académie de Paris chancellor of universities displays both thoroughness and grounding as he stakes out the contours of his American genealogical culture into four distinct periods, with successive dominant meanings and touchstones. The pre-revolutionary experience was caught up with social status, with a “desire to become part of a transatlantic imperial establishment,” a moral and religious exemplarity that manifested itself in ancestral portraits, gravestones and family silver. But this old-regime mindset was radically eclipsed after the revolution; it was too much at odds with “postrevolutionary America’s future-oriented egalitarianism.” Antebellum America democratized the practice of genealogy, taking its cues from the growing significance of the family, the nascent shaping of a national tradition, and the urge for self-knowledge and stability, as seen particularly in the African-American community. Weil then shifts to the years following the Civil War, when blacks sought to reunite their families and whites sought to heal the country’s wounds via nationalism and ancestry, but “at the expense of racial equality.” During the middle of the 20th century, the interest in genealogy was fueled by the Atomic Age and its attendant anxiety and fears for our collective memory, underscored later by the publication of Roots, and “black America’s demands about identity, the past, Africa, and slavery.” America’s obsession with racial categories was tailor-made for interest in heredity, which has led to eugenics. The last few decades have also witnessed a flowering of genealogical societies and an explosion of profitable genealogical businesses, with both legitimate practitioners and hucksters cashing in.
Weil convincingly delineates the fact that origins matter; they fill many needs, from the noble to the nasty.
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)