An odd, genre-bending tribute to Vladimir Nabokov.
Nabokov, the master of narrative trickery and literary puzzles, was known for, among countless other accolades and seminal works, his innovative autobiography, Speak Memory, which was less a straightforward memoir than a series of memories that blurred fiction and fact and past and present. It is only fitting then, that literary scholar Zanganeh, obsessed with Nabokov since finding a copy of Ada on her mother's nightstand long before it was appropriate reading material for her, uses a similarly vague structure in this work. The author intertwines her memories as a reader of Nabokov with scenes from his life and his books, as well as present-day visits with his son Dmitri. Zanganeh is not the first to wax philosophical about Nabokov, though her interrogation of his work and her own experiences with it is more scholarly and less immediately compelling than that of her famous counterpart, Azar Nafisi. Structuring the narrative around the notion of happiness, Zanganeh delves deeply into his feelings on love, both in his novels and in his lifelong passionate relationship with his wife and unconditional affection for his only son. She muses on place, traveling through the American West that so enchanted Nabokov, and on nature, focusing on his absolute passion for butterflies. Though the author at times brilliantly captures Nabokov's calculated whimsy, some of her material feels gimmicky and detracts from her scholarship. The recountings of conversations with Dmitri, for example, are both lovely and informative, and are far more effective than imagined conversations with his long-dead father.
There are moments of real beauty here, but emulating Nabokov is not a task to be taken lightly. Zanganeh's literary hero left behind some awfully big shoes, which she just can't quite fill.
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)