Macrae, former editor of the Economist and author of The 2025 Report (1985), offers an oddly jocular biography of the Hungarian mathematical prodigy who would become a highly influential cold warrior before his death in 1957—an account whose credibility is hindered by the author's unabashed reverence for his subject. One of the four Hungarian geniuses who would help introduce the Atomic Age at Los Alamos (the others were Edward Teller, Leo Szilard, and Eugene Wigner), von Neumann made his mark in Europe while barely past his teens through his contributions to a mathematical foundation for the new quantum physics. In 1930, the young, newly married mathematician emigrated to America to teach at Princeton. While von Neumann moved on in succeeding years to increasingly influential posts at the Institute for Advanced Study, the Los Alamos atom-bomb project, Teller's hydrogen-bomb program, and, finally, the freshly created Atomic Energy Commission, his agile and highly logical mind left an indelible mark on the computer revolution, games theory, economics, and, as his political clout increased, international relations. Despite the fact that the general reader is as likely to be interested in the development of von Neumann's hawkish political stance (particularly regarding the nuclear-arms race), and his odd fascination with such topics as global government and control of the weather, as in his scientific contributions, Macrae veers away from serious exploration of his subject's philosophical outlook—instead emphasizing (and applauding) the ease with which ``our Johnny'' used dirty jokes to evade emotional political debate, and ridiculing those of differing political temperament (e.g., deeming ``Bertie'' Russell and Norbert Wiener ``geniuses turned emotionally too dotty''). The effect is off-putting, and though ``Johnny's'' romp through world affairs is dutifully recounted, the private motivations of this hard-drinking, power-loving genius remain, in quintessential 50's style, drowned in nervous laughter. (B&w photos—16 pages—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").
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)