Books are not dead. That’s the good news in this set of bookish essays.
It wasn’t long ago, writes Rutgers Book Initiative founding director Price (How To Do Things With Books in Victorian Britain, 2012, etc.), that writers such as Sven Birkerts and Robert Coover were remarking, and sometimes lamenting, the supposed decline of the book in favor of other technologies—the computer, the e-reader, etc. In fact, reading physical books is on the rise, and in December 2018, holiday shoppers found several popular titles on back order for “that most old-fashioned of crises: a paper shortage.” The widespread availability of digital devices doesn’t seem to have put much of a dent in the market for physical books, though new technologies have certainly affected reading in the past—most notably, Price archly observes, TV. What has really cut into reading time, she adds, is the in-between time we used to devote to reading books and newspapers, the time spent on bus-stop benches or commuter trains, time now so often given to navigating the many iterations of social media. Books as objects seem safe, then, though mysteries still surround them: Those data crunchers who use electronic tools to see what books people are looking at most still can’t answer why we’re looking at them. As Price writes, in a nice turn, “no matter how many keystrokes you track and blinks you time, others’ reading remains as hard to peer into as others’ hearts.” The essays suggest more than form a single coherent argument about the book today, but Price’s ideas that books are a communal thing and that reading them, in at least one sense, is a profoundly social act are pleasing even if libraries are now different from our childhood memories and if those books come in many forms besides between covers.
Readers who enjoy books about books will find much to like here.
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)