A European woman who assumed the persona of a young male Tunisian student describes her remarkable journey into the Sahara in colorful and textured, albeit romanticized, vignettes. In 1897, Isabelle Eberhardt (The Oblivion Seekers, not reviewed), born and raised in Geneva, traveled with her mother to Tunis, where both converted to Islam. Eberhardt spent much of the rest of her life in Algeria; this work comes from notes she made during 1904 as they were later edited and published in France by Victor Barrucand. Despite this cleanup of the notes, some intriguing internal tensions remain: Eberhardt says her male persona (which Arabs respected, even when they saw through it) allows her to travel without attracting notice, but in a low moment she notes that she attracts disapproval. Near the Algeria-Morocco border, she muses with some pleasure that nobody knows precisely where the boundary is, yet soon (in one of the few hints at the region's volatility) she trades her Moroccan attire for Algerian to avoid annoying residents. When individuals and settings attract her eye she describes them vividly and concisely, whether she is passing a madman reciting verses from the Koran or taking tea with male students at a mosque. (Her garb ironically restricts her access to—and ability to learn about—women; interestingly, she seems not to mind.) Her observations on the play of light and color over the desert are made with an artist's eye, and her musings on travel and isolation reveal a pensive side. Yet far as she journeys, literally and metaphorically, she is still dogged by her prejudices: Jewish women cast ``provocative leers,'' and Jewish men possess ``insinuating and commercial abilities''; blacks can be ``repulsive'' and, when dancing, both ``childlike'' and ``barbarous.'' Though lacking a needed glossary for the many Arabic terms used, this slim volume makes a welcome addition to the information available on an extraordinary woman.
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)