A rambling and, ultimately, rather pointless retelling of ancient heroic tales, by a psychologist and author (Wisdom and the Senses, 1988, etc.) who tries without much success to connect the narratives to the daily realities of modern life. ``Myths are the prehistory of mankind,'' according to Erikson, who here traces our moral and psychic ancestry back to the sagas of the Greeks. She is particularly concerned with the origins of the creative impulse, and so it's not surprising that she dwells upon precisely those figures who represent the birth and triumph of human genius—or, more specifically, of the human soul. Prometheus, the demigod, awaken's humanity's dormant creativity with the fire he sends down from heaven; Orpheus, by ``singing his sadness,'' helps us to ``accept the fact that we are not isolated and unique but share daily shame and loss and can do so more resolutely if we face it together''; and Socrates gives his very life in an attempt ``to unveil the infallibility of truth—the beauty and strength of authenticity which can be found in the invariable core of the human being.'' Erikson's observations are often striking and fresh, but she ties them so closely to the texts at hand that her work becomes little more than a random and discursive commentary. Had she expanded her reflections more generously, Erikson might have given us a meditation whose scope was large enough for both the myths she describes and the world they address; as it is, her examination of the ancients comes in morsels too small to sustain much thought. Precious notions too slight and casual to carry us along.
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)