This bland, meandering roster of names, titles, and great houses, though spruced up by handsome illustrations, fails to live up to the elegance of its subject's designs. Best known for the magnificent country houses he built for distinguished members of the gentry, Edwin ``Ned'' Lutyens was the son of a portrait painter. Discovered and promoted by a wealthy neighbor in Surrey, Lutyens, who had demonstrated an uncanny talent for architecture from an early age, received his first commission as an architect (for a ``gentleman's cottage'') in 1889, when he was 20. He was rarely idle after that: The titled and the well- heeled beat a path to his door. ``There will never be great architecture without great patrons,'' Lutyens is often quoted as saying. He built on an ambitious, even opulent scale for several hectic decades. While he designed everything from cottages to tombs, he is best remembered for his elegant country houses: Temple Dinsley, Berrydowne Court, Deanery Garden. He also renovated a number of England's great houses, including Knole, which his romantic friendship with Lady Victoria Sackville afforded him the luxury of doing. His fortunes declined after WW I: His designs passed out of fashion, and some of his old patrons fell on hard times. He died deeply in debt. Brown seems little concerned with dramatizing Lutyens's life, however, focusing here on the lives of his patrons. Unfortunately, her narrative often seems more like a cozy society page studded with the great names of Edwardian society than a historical narrative. Indeed, her book (she is the author of Vita's Other World: A Gardening Biography of Vita Sackville-West, 1986) seems to treat distinguished names as a carefully cultivated landscape to be described without inquisitiveness or excess of passion. With too much text hindering any coffee table appeal, this will likely find an audience only among Anglophiles and DecArts & Architecture diehards. (16 color, 100 b&w photos)
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)