Good-humored essays that chronicle an oddball odyssey through the urban outback. It's neither pristine river nor virgin forest that rattles the affable Rockland's wandering bones, but that awkward border—in the wilderness or in the city—where nature and man's handiwork collide. Chair of American Studies at Rutgers Univ., Rockland (A Bliss Case, 1989) undertakes a series of decidedly unscholarly treks across the wilds of the Northeast corridor. In his search for adventure, he boldly goes where no man wants to go: kayaking the south Jersey meadows in January; camping in Manhattan's Inwood Park; biking Route 1, known as ``Death Highway,'' through Newark, N.J. Prowling the forgotten canals and the traffic- and retail- choked highways of Megalopolis, the unlikely ``new frontier'' that sprawls from New York to Philly, he finds a Whitmanesque splendor in the flotsam of the industrial age. Seeking to ``redefine adventure in contemporary terms,'' he brings it within reach of the average schlepper: No triathlete, Rockland knows when to bag the tent and check into a motel. Hiking all 275 blocks of Broadway, as he does in ``Copping a Pee in the Big Apple,'' requires no superhuman effort. It is, however, a charmingly contrarian way to view the world. That charm—and his self-mocking style, boyish enthusiasm, and unrepentant (but harmless) male chauvinism—lend a refreshing tone to the contrapuntal ruminations on wildlife, geology, urban myth, Indian history, and the pleasures of PB&J scattered throughout his love song to postmodern America. Rockland delights in camp as much as any devotee of pop culture, but his inquiry into the things consumer culture values, then abandons (and the snapshots he presents of our deteriorating cities) forms a powerful cautionary tale. Perfect for armchair travelers or urban adventurers looking for new ideas.
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)
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").