A rich, humane, well-researched discourse on Italians in America, by Mangione (An Ethnic at Large, 1978, etc.) and Morreale (Monday, Tuesday...Never Come Sunday, 1977). By marshalling abundant, striking, and unexpected facts, the authors create a fresh view of the Italian contribution to American culture. Amerigo Vespucci emerges as an ambiguous hustler, while the forgotten Fillipo Mazzei comes alive as a man at the heart of the birth of our nation—friend of and influence upon Italophile Thomas Jefferson and ``prime mover in founding and organizing a constitutional society whose members included James Madison, James Monroe, and Edmond Randolph.'' Equally memorable is Count Luigi Cesnola, Union officer and Confederate prisoner, art dealer and first director of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. The brutal realities of turn-of-the-century immigration and of the melting-pot squalor of the resulting Italian ghettos are portrayed matter-of- factly, but the authors also explore little-known Italian-American outposts in Louisiana (where their communes prospered), Texas (where immigrants were ripped even off more outrageously than usual), and even in Arizona, where N.Y.C.'s future mayor Fiorella La Guardia spent some formative years. It all adds up to a powerful look at a heritage often overwhelmed by the dominant Anglo culture, and to a strong antidote to the mafia-mythology so dear to the media. The facts are all here, but what makes the book hum are a vigor and tone unique to writers tempered in the liberal-left tradition of the Thirties, for whom humanity and social issues are truly of the essence. (Thirty-two pages of 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)