In the second installment (Secret Voices: The West, 2012) of her mystical nature series, New Mexico-based author Merrill profiles several varieties of trees found on the North American midcontinent, categorizing them regionally and offering herself as their translator.
For each tree she explores, Merrill offers several components—a rich illustration followed by a first-person monologue personifying the tree and what lesson it would teach humans if that American Elm or Boxelder could speak our language. She also provides drawings and explanations of other animal and plant species that share the tree’s habitat. A compatible poem written by Brian Mitchell accompanies each entry. The overall aesthetic effect is accessible and pleasing, but the combination of informed nature writing with the work’s fantastical elements, which depart wholly from realism, may be challenging for some readers. To add to the unusual mix, the author salts the text with memorable factoids; e.g., “rabbits burrow, hares live above ground; rabbits are born blind and furless, hares are born fully furred, eyes open.” Such details show the writer’s expertise, which may persuade more concrete nature-loving readers to at least consider her forays into mystical and even mythical worlds. These forays center on the author’s “readings” of trees, which Merrill offers as an alternative term for the wackier sounding “talks” to the trees. She describes her own method of communication with them as follows: “I ask a series of questions, the ‘answers’ come as images, emotions or concepts, often wordless....Then I turn it all into prose that (hopefully) hangs together.” Such “readings” offer insights into the organism’s past lives and thought processes and often touch on reincarnation; e.g., the sumac dreams of being “part of a chorus of ladies reaching for the Moon, waving and dancing as it passes overhead,” and the spruce recalls once being a glacier or polar bear.
An unusual, fact-filled appreciation of the natural world blended with ventures into mysticism.
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)