A smart, absorbing blend of criticism and biography that demythologizes the writings of Britain's premier postwar dramatist. London theater critic Billington draws on interviews with Pinter (born 1930), his friends, and his co-workers to explore the links between the writer's personal experience and such plays as The Birthday Party and Betrayal; screenplays, including The Servant and Remains of the Day; and numerous television and radio dramas. This penetrating book discovers a good deal of autobiography in works previously thought to be forbiddingly abstract and philosophical. Billington argues persuasively, for example, that the frequent portraits of male camaraderie in Pinter's plays are based on the tightly knit group of boys with whom he formed lifelong friendships during their youth in London's Jewish East End. The critic's careful explication also convincingly refutes the idea that Pinter made an abrupt shift in the 1980s to become a ``protest'' playwright; Billington shows that the early works, which unflinchingly depict personal struggles for power, were just as politically charged, albeit more covertly. Some points are debatable, such as the contention that Pinter takes an essentially feminist view of male/female conflicts, and Billington tends to make all his points rather repetitiously. The book deals fairly evenhandedly with the combative playwright's private life, although his first marriage, to actress Vivien Merchant, is described almost exclusively from Pinter's point of view. (His second wife, historian Antonia Fraser, gets gentler treatment.) These are forgivable faults in a generally solid piece of research combined with a thoughtful analysis of Pinter's place in contemporary theater. Billington's knowledge of world dramatic literature and theatrical history puts his American colleagues to shame. Pinter's work has been obfuscated as often as illuminated by critics over the past 40 years; Billington combines intelligence with accessibility to create a fine theater book for the general reader.
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)