From British journalist and filmmaker Jo Durden-Smith (Who Killed George Jackson?, 1976), a warm and perceptive memoir of his love affair with Russia and with the woman he married, which began with a casual visit in 1988 to a country he considered ``a black hole on the edge of Europe.'' Russia under Gorbachev was changing, acquiring the trappings of a civil society, and Durden-Smith, who admits that he came ``along for the ride'' with two friends, soon found himself in love. In love with Russia, ``its dreams and passions, its struggles with history, its monumental search for a memory, its intensity of feeling.'' On this first visit, he met ``the Russian Bob Dylan,'' Boris Grebenshchikov. Interested in making a movie of this underground rock star, he flew to Leningrad, to meet this ``chameleonic and sort of medieval Russian Clark Kent,'' who lived on the top floor of an abandoned building. How the liberalization changed Boris, who became rich and famous after the movie was made, and how he now lives in the US, where he judges television music competitions, is symbolic of what happened to Russian society as it emerged from the protective constraints of communism. Unprepared for capitalism and let down by the West, Russia, laments Durden- Smith, is now run by the Mafia and the ``new swash-buckling nomenklatura.'' As well as offering closely observed portraits of the Russians he came to know, he tells the story of his other romance: his falling in love with, and eventual marriage to, Yelena, a media executive, mother of a teenaged daughter, and herself the daughter of an old Stalinist. Confessing to be ``hooked,'' he currently lives in Russia, a place that unlike the West, he says, ``is still alive with future possibility.'' A moving love letter to a country, a people, and a woman, as well as a remarkable record of Russian private life in the midst of yet another revolution.
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)