Nisbet’s writing could use some polish, but he provides a solid piece of scholarship and synthesis.



An admiring, brisk portrait of 19th-century Scottish plant collector David Douglas.

Historian and teacher Nisbet (The Mapmaker’s Eye: David Thompson on the Columbia Plateau, 2005, etc.) brings Douglas into focus in the early 1820s, when the Horticultural Society of London sent him to the Americas to gather specialized knowledge of the flora and fauna. The explorer brought enormous energy and enthusiasm to the rigors of his profession and did brilliant work, but also made mistakes and behaved crapulously. He wrote fairly well, if a bit floridly (“it rained a little during the night, which cooled the atmosphere and added a hue to Nature’s work, which is truly grand”), a trait shared by his biographer (“the mouth of the Detroit River, where the tongue of Ontario licks beneath Michigan’s rising shoulder”). Nisbet’s well-researched narrative has considerable bounce and drama, summoning a fully fledged image of Douglas from 1823 to 1834, mainly in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a portrait of a true adventurer: clothes in tatters, his knee infected and eyesight dimming, chewing a plug of tobacco as he comments on the plants, animals and humans he meets, the construction of native canoes and tribal cooking, assiduously chronicling everyday tribulations in his “journal of occurrences.” The author also clearly draws Douglas’s transformation from collector to celestial observer and cartographer when, despite his talent for bringing home the goods, neither the Horticultural nor the Linnean Society would assign him a new mission. Eventually a patron sent him on a fact-finding trip to Hawaii, where he died after falling into a bullock trap, where, unfortunately, there also happened to be a trapped bullock.

Nisbet’s writing could use some polish, but he provides a solid piece of scholarship and synthesis.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-57061-613-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sasquatch

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2009

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



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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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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