Joplin pens a bio of her legendary older sister that's more detailed and evenhanded, yet much less dramatic and emotionally raw, than Myra Friedman's bestselling Buried Alive (1973)—and includes the rock star's unpublished letters home, more revealing for Janis's aren't-you-proud-of-me? eagerness of tone than for their contents. Describing Janis's early life and influences, especially the high cultural and educational ideals of her parents, Joplin sometimes employs a tone of stuffy propriety that seems decidedly strange—after all, this is Janis Joplin she's describing. Getting into Janis's years at the Univ. of Texas, however, Joplin rises to the task. She debunks the tale that Janis was voted ``Ugly Man on Campus'' (she was nominated by friends, not detractors, and she didn't win). But Janis was plenty tormented and complex, and we get the impression that her life would have been all booze and unfocused angry rebellion and squalor if it hadn't been for Ken Threadgill, the Austin barkeep who recognized her extraordinary musical gifts and launched her career. Once in San Francisco, Janis teamed up with a ragged, soulful band called ``Big Brother and the Holding Company,'' and all her untamable demons channelled into her art. Her performances were electric. One West Coast critic called Janis a ``shaman woman,'' and Janis didn't disagree: ``I do believe in some very amorphous things that happen when you're onstage...like something moves in the air.'' At once narcissistic and sensitive, hard-driven and childlike, the Janis that emerges here was trapped by her ``get it while you can'' image—and she apparently thought heroin oblivion was her only way out. A thorough, restrained account of an extraordinary rise and fall. (Thirty-two pages of b&w photographs—not seen.)
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)