A bit of late-high-imperial adventure deep in the wilds of South America, from two English explorers.
Blashford-Snell, our narrator and man in charge, launched the expedition (Snailham participated in its final leg) in May 2001 with two objectives. The first was to determine if a reed boat could navigate its way from the Bolivian coca region to the Atlantic, thus making some sense out of why cocaine was found in the ancient, mummified body of an Egyptian princess. The second was to follow the lure of a lost Incan city, Paititi—“South America has a good tally of such lost cities,” remarks Blashford-Snell in a comment typical of his prose style, which feels like it has been torn from a Victorian adventure story. “ ‘I've been thinking,’ he said when we met him,” begins one characteristic passage. “This was ominous. Oswaldo, often inscrutable and enigmatic, had a penchant for dramatic throwaway observations.” The ensuing capers are strewn with equally appropriate characters: Leopold d'Arenberg, “a prince of the Holy Roman Empire”; Marigold Verity-Dick, a harpist whose “sweet evening recitals had soothed many a savage breast”; and the sinister Austrian Sigfried Trippolt, whose rotten behavior prompts Blashford-Snell to crow, “a highly satisfactory instance of local obstructionism taking on British determination and coming off a poor second.” The expedition didn’t prove anything per se, but the explorers did unearth some important archaeological sites, the medical team performed lots of good works, and some of the conservation studies may bear critical fruit. But it is the swash and buckle of it all that really matters here: tackling a monstrous, murderous set of rapids head on with a reed boat and getting beaten like a gong, keeping an eye skinned for vipers and giant fire ants, or besting the Nazis yet again.
Blashford-Snell may have come up short on scientific results, but not even a mad dog would challenge him to a sitting contest in the noonday sun. (25 color 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)