Wallace’s telling tends to glorify them all—no warts at all in this display. Despite that, this is a fascinating portrait of...

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A GATHERING OF WONDERS

BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

A catalogue and chronology of the curators of the great (dinosaurs) and small (insects) who have graced the halls of the Museum since its inception in 1869.

Wallace (The American Museum of Natural History’s Book of Dinosaurs and Other Ancient Creatures, 1994) goes the whole nine yards in this paean to the scholars and artists who amassed and mounted the collections on view (or more likely in storage) on New York’s Central Park West. For starters, he celebrates Carl Akeley as both collector and taxidermist: an early voice for biodiversity; Akeley lived to see a sanctuary for the mountain gorilla established in the Belgian Congo in 1925. Also celebrated in the how-to-display-it category is the ceiling suspension of a model of the great blue whale, the largest mammal ever (earlier, fairly preposterous ideas were happily scotched when a canny curator suggested that decaying whale flesh odors wafting across a proposed model of a beached whale would create just the right atmosphere). Best are these longish pieces that create a sense of time, place, and character of the museum and its stars (from Roy Chapman Andrews to Margaret Mead). Otherwise, one tends to get lost in the archives of ichthyology, herpetology, gems, entomology, paleontology (big and little beasts), ornithology, and finally anthropology/ethnography. Yes, they are all here—the painstaking dissectors who sort out species of juncos, spiders, and mammals, fossil fishes and turtles and flies in amber. Some, like Libbie Hyman, spent over 30 years producing volumes of information on all known invertebrates. Others have developed or promoted cladistics (a system of classifying species) or proposed still-controversial ideas about evolution (like the punctuated equilibrium theory of Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldridge).

Wallace’s telling tends to glorify them all—no warts at all in this display. Despite that, this is a fascinating portrait of one of the world’s great museums—and one of New York’s crown jewels.

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-312-25221-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2000

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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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