Ferro (Social Sciences/êcole des Hautes êtudes, Paris; The Russian Revolution of February 1917, 1972), an expert on the political details of the Russian Revolution, claims to offer new information in this political biography of Tsar Nicholas II. But since its original appearance in England in 1991, Ferro's volume has been outdone and outdated by Edvard Radzinsky's magisterial The Last Tsar (1992). With long excerpts from letters and diaries, as well as with interviews with survivors and descendants, Radzinsky offered not only the harrowing life of Nicholas as tsar, father, and husband but also the terrible price of being part of Nicholas's family; he also wrote of his own odyssey in recovering the family's stories. Ferro, on the other hand—saying that the Soviet Union withheld necessary information and that the archives are closed—depicts a Nicholas who is variously an ``ordinary man'' and a ``victim of History,'' both brutal and feckless, a conformist and traditionalist—a man dominated by his wife and disdainful of intellectual and Jews. The author offers an inadequate analogy between Nicholas and Louis XVI, another pleasure-loving king confused by contemporary ideas, and baffled by the reformers, and acquiring only belatedly the political acumen that might have saved him. The execution of the tsar's family is buried here in a complicated argument over who was responsible for it: Ferro blames the Bolsheviks but not Lenin himself, who, he claims, negotiated with the Germans to save the tsaretsa and her daughters. And although sightings of Anastasia and other family members are nearly as ubiquitous in scholarship and popular culture as sightings of Elvis or UFOs, Ferro claims that ``no professional historian has thought until now'' to question reports of the family's survival. Overly cerebral and full of vague conviction, blame, judgment, and collective opinion. The human drama—from the execution of Rasputin to the struggle of the tsar's family to understand, escape, and survive—is displaced here by abstract argument. (Illustrations)
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)