Thirteen years (195264) of letters from James Beard, with just enough interspersed replies from West Coast culinary colleague Helen Evans Brown to reveal that more of her voice would have improved this volume. Harcourt Brace editor Ferrone offers excerpts from 300 of approximately 450 extant letters. The documents have been edited silently, and the man who emerges is convivial but shallow and in some ways insecure. These pages are dominated by what Beard cooks and eats and with whom he is eating. (Not surprisingly, the need to diet is a recurring theme.) While readers may cull a few ideas (in addition to those in recipes at the end of the volume), ultimately they receive a picture of a limited person: Who else could lunch with Alice B. Toklas and record only what they ate? Who could dine with wine expert Alexis Lichine and name the foods only, not the wines? Occasionally, others in the culinary field come under Beard's critical eye, with Dione Lucas, a ``great technician who doesn't know about food,'' earning particular attention. In 1952, Beard writes, ``I am always poor nowadays,'' and this becomes a familiar refrain, despite a full (and lucrative) schedule of writing books and articles, giving classes and demonstrations, appearing on radio and television, and acting as a corporate consultant. Brown, for her part, resists suggestions to move east and join his schemes for a cooking school or supply store, and her rare comments add some needed spice. (It's interesting to note that Beard had actually proposed publishing their joint correspondence, then discarded Brown's letters.) It is Brown who chastises Beard for publishing individually some material they accumulated for a joint cookbook and reminds him not to insult women cooks: ``They buy most of your books.'' More a parade of menu items than a life, this one is bland reading for all but the most serious students of the Master. (8 pages b&w photos, not seen)
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)