Moving account of the one-woman phenomenon who, among other things, made the unhappy Franz Kafka’s final year a little less miserable.
Many standard biographies of Kafka have little or nothing to say about Dora Diamant (1898–1952), a free-spirited woman who left her Polish Hasidic family to work as a Zionist activist, sometime film actress, bookseller, all-around cultural force, and flame of many a man’s desire. Yet Diamant, states namesake (but no known relation) Kathi Diamant (Kafka Project/San Diego State Univ.), sparked something in Kafka from their very first meeting in Berlin in 1922. Through her influence, the desperately ill writer lightened up just a little, and their late-into-the-night whisperings about moving together to Palestine seem to have helped him cope with the daily sufferings brought about by wasting tuberculosis. Kafka kept his relationship with Dora private, save for a mention or two in postcards to his friend and later biographer Max Brod, who upon meeting her characterized the relationship as “an idyll. . . . At last I saw my friend in good spirits.” Dora was Kafka’s constant companion, and Diamant maintains that he died in her arms. (Other sources either do not record this datum or have it that she was out of the room when he slipped away.) After his death, Dora safeguarded Kafka’s papers and manuscripts, destroying some of them as he asked, but keeping others that fell into the hands of the Gestapo and have never been recovered. She fled to England and was interned as an enemy alien until, thanks to some literate intercessor’s recognition of her relationship with the writer, she was allowed to move to London, where she died—but not without first traveling to Israel and saying a prayer for her old lover.
A welcome, well-written addition to Kafka studies, valuable in its portrayal of the writer as a human being, not a monument.
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)