Vital and knowledgeable biography of the noted son of a Genoese weaver, distilled from a four-volume work (Cristoforo Colombo) by Taviani, president of the Italian Senate. In contrast to Felipe Fernandez-Armesto's Columbus (p. 980), a real sense of the explorer's life as a fated adventure permeates this biography, beginning with Columbus's childhood in Genoa, the era's center of cartography and cosmography. As a teenager, Columbus smells the Orient for the first time on the Mediterranean island of Chios; shipwrecked after a bloody sea-battle in 1476, he takes the event in stride: ``The Lord our God miraculously sent me here so I could serve your highness....'' Taviani's asides are flavorful: Norsemen, he says, did not colonize North America because ``they did not find...potentates or lords whom they could massacre and whose goods they could seize''; Columbus falls in love in church because ``only in the half-light of a church could one stare at a nice girl without causing a scandal.'' (The girl is a full-blooded noble, well connected if impoverished.) The explorer's professional career and nautical genius are well detailed—endless voyages, endless accumulation of data and ideas, endless pursuit of honors. In the British isles, Columbus learns of the Norse discoveries; on the Atlantic, he learns about the trade winds, his knowledge of which established classic trade routes. When it's time to hustle, Columbus is canny and effective: Duke Don Luis de la Cerda Medicanelli sympathizes with ``Columbus's prudence and good sense...considering irrelevant any expenses deemed necessary, the more so as Columbus asked very little for himself.'' It's such a good deal that Ferdinand and Isabella take over, and Columbus plunges into the adventure that adds a hemisphere to the known world and introduces yaws—a ferocious new venereal disease—to Europe. A solid, well-written (and well-translated) account in which the man steps free of the research, complete with aspirations and appetites. (Ten full-color maps—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)