But there’s no need to quibble. This is fine, fine reading.

THE BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS 2001

The well-known poet and memoirist presents the 16th installment in this flawless series.

Last year’s millennial edition may have been the best ever. Edited by Alan Lightman, it took a philosophical turn, pondering 21st-century issues of technology and dehumanization; particularly striking were Andrew Sullivan’s wrenching essay on hate crimes and Wendell Berry’s passionate case for small farms. Under Norris’s guidance, the new compendium is more literary, with an evident preference for creative nonfiction. Jeffrey Heiman’s “Vin Laforge,” about a little town in the Berkshires as seen through one old man’s memories, could as easily be called a short story—a sly essay of the kind Ring Lardner might have written. The same is true of Yusef Komunyakaa’s “Blue Machinery of Summer,” a Vietnam veteran’s reminiscences of the factory jobs he held upon his return from the war. Eight out of 26 pieces are from only two publications, The American Scholar and the perennially dominating New Yorker. One of the selections from the latter may be the best of the best: Marcus Laffey’s broodingly ironic essay on police work in the Bronx after midnight, “The Midnight Tour.” The star-author entry is also from the New Yorker, Stephen King’s “On Impact,” about the his accident while jogging (he was hit by a van) and difficult recovery. There’s some literary criticism—James Campbell’s entertaining snippet on Robert Louis Stevenson as a travel-writer—and a roundup of grief literature, including “The Work of Mourning,” Francine Du Plessix Gray’s meditation on the death of her father. Though William T. Vollman plays with form a bit (“Upside Down and Backward”), these are mostly traditional essays. In the current fashion, they shy away from grandiose pronouncements and booming conclusions.

But there’s no need to quibble. This is fine, fine reading.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2001

ISBN: 0-618-15358-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2001

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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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