THEIRS WAS THE KINGDOM

THE UNCONDENSED STORY OF THE READER'S DIGEST AND ITS FOUNDERS, DEWITT AND LILA ACHESON WALLACE

A lengthy, albeit consistently engrossing, take on the Reader's Digest and how it became one of the worlds's most influential periodicals. Drawing on a wealth of sources, Heidenry offers a well-rounded account of how Roy DeWitt Wallace (``Wally'' to intimates) built a farflung communications empire on an idea revived while he recovered from wounds suffered in WW I. Back in the States, the thirtysomething Wally came up with enough money to publish the first edition of Reader's Digest in February 1922. The monthly's format and content, almost immediate hits with middle America, have changed little since then. From its original venue in Manhattan's Greenwich Village, however, RD moved to Pleasantville, an N.Y.C. exurb. In later life, Wally, who had deliberately overstated the editorial role played by his wife, Lila Acheson, to enhance the fledgling journal's drawing power with women, downplayed her apparently negligible contributions. Whoever was responsible, the magazine proved to have mass appeal outside the US, and more than a dozen foreign editions were successfully launched. Though a frequent object of the literary establishment's scorn, RD prospered in good times and bad as the proprietors (who lured name writers with top pay) developed a flair for direct-mail promotion and a willingness to break with tradition, e.g., by opening their pages to advertisers in the mid-50's. RD has survived the death of its founders (both of whom lived into their 90s) in good style, remaining the keystone of a profitable media enterprise with new worlds to conquer in Eastern Europe and beyond. If Heidenry doesn't always endorse the odd amalgam of political conservatism, religious uplift, and double-entendre humor that has made Reader's Digest a perdurable institution, he offers an evenhanded appreciation of its socioeconomic attractions, as well as generally admiring but unsparing portraits of the principals and their key subordinates. As complete a wrap-up, then, as general readers could want on a commercial/cultural phenomenon.

Pub Date: June 14, 1993

ISBN: 0-393-03466-6

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1993

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

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").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

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)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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