A debut memoir of moving to Italy and extensively remodeling a house.
After American author Reynolds’ first husband died by his own hand, she traveled to Italy to take time off. On returning to Boston, where she wrote for the Boston Globe, she fell in love with an Italian man, Umberto, and ended up moving with him to the Italian island of Sardinia, after he’s offered a teaching position there. They buy a fixer-upper in the countryside, which they proceed to remodel, and pay great attention to the details. When Umberto later expressed dismay at the ugliness of white electrical outlets in an American luxury condo, Reynolds replied that Americans don’t see “beautiful palaces and frescoes” from the time they’re born; they see “Strip malls, big box stores and billboards.” Umberto countered: “Form contains function. That’s what makes Italian cars and motorbikes the best in the world.” Over the course of this book, Reynolds tells how she embraced this aesthetic as the couple knocked down walls and made a guest house out of a garage. The remodeling became not just a project, but also a way of life—if one is going to lift the cabinets to change the tile, shouldn’t one also change the cabinets themselves? The text tends to meander at times, as the projects mount. However, the writing is solid, overall, with notable moments; later in the memoir, for example, the author stresses that all was not an HGTV fantasy, as Sardinia had a dark side. At one point, she tells of seeing a dead dog hanging from a fence, its throat had been slit by a farmer or shepherd after it threatened some chickens. Reynolds, who’s African-American, also notes that she never got used to the stares that she received at the market from white locals. When Umberto was offered a temporary job at Harvard, Reynolds bought an apartment in Boston—which, of course, led to other building projects.
A worthy, if sometimes-rambling, read that will appeal to those who may be thinking about a remodel of their own.
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)