A painter’s meditation on his garden that mixes a bit too much lyricism with some original observations and knowledge of plants.
For most of us, coaxing a garden to grow is a humbling experience, but it apparently has the opposite effect on writers. Dash, a well-regarded painter and the author of a gardening column for the East Hampton [N.Y.] Star, presents his idiosyncratic opinions as philosophical or aesthetic profundities and indulges in turns of phrase that aim at haiku but generally achieve only oddity. His contemptuous dismissals of popular plants seem deliberately eccentric: the characterization of forsythia as “an absolute ass of a color, a greeny-yaller braying insult” sounds disingenuous, especially when he adds that “it is so nice” when the withered flowers drop from the bush and coat the ground. He also prides himself on his impatience with time-honored rules of thumb for weather prediction, assuming a tough, no-nonsense tone that imitates classic garden writer Eleanor Perényi. When Dash discusses garden design, however, he is clearly in his element, evoking colors, textures, and forms with the same precision and brilliance that characterize his paintings. Moreover, he is as attentive to practical function as he is to form; the essays on garden paths and benches exhibit common sense as well as keen powers of observation. He is at his best dealing with the least glamorous elements of the garden, providing unsentimental and eloquent accounts of the chores of pruning, manuring, and transplanting. An essay titled “Our Climate” argues by example that plant choice, placement, and planting methods should be determined by the demands of the particular locale, rather than by abstract principles. A long piece on the depredations of Hurricane Gloria, mourning the plants destroyed by the storm but affirming the garden’s eventual renewal, is garden-writing at its finest.
Despite too much mannered, precious prose, this is a collection offering plenty of small pleasures.
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").