A surrealist’s 1936 diary of a voyage meant to recapitulate Jules Verne’s classic fantasy of modern travel. Gilbert’s translation is accompanied by a new introduction explaining the author’s relationship with his companion, Marcel Khill.
Cocteau’s casual travelogue begins with an homage to the influence of Verne’s 1873 yarn on what he claims was a whole generation of French schoolboys. Inspired by his young friend’s suggestion that they honor Verne’s centenary by re-enacting Phileas Fogg’s wager, the middle-aged poet—not yet a filmmaker—finds himself embarked on a frantic jaunt through the antiquities of Italy, Greece, and Egypt, the ports and opium dens of South Asia, the theaters and geisha-houses of Japan, and the glittering confections of the US. Apart from a significant encounter with Charlie Chaplin (whom Cocteau apparently worshiped) the adventures recounted are less spectacular than the texture of Cocteau’s wonderfully lush yet economical descriptions of great cities and their underworlds. Interspersed with his minute observations are mediations on beauty, death, colonialism, sex, race, and vulgarity, all shaped by the poetic bemusement of a Westerner noting “with what vast reserves of energy the Orient can challenge an exhausted Europe.” To a modern American ear, the dated English translation occasionally thrusts itself annoyingly into the foreground—conventions for rendering dialect or pidgin are particularly egregious—and seem to occlude the rhythms of the French original. As reminders of the complexity of East-West relations, these lapses of translation heighten the cultural interest of the text, yet they resonate oddly with the highly biographical cast of the introduction (which concentrates on Cocteau’s opium addiction, the unswervingly homosexual character of his liaison with Khill, and the contribution of this peculiar adventure to his artistic career). Though informative and empathetic in its own way, Callow’s reading entirely ignores the rich cross-cultural questions raised by the text.
A light-footed but penetrating survey of the land of the Other that rebukes the artificial weightiness of later French cultural criticism.
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)