Giving playful cover to a considerable bit of academic research, Hutchinson wanders with Yankee curiosity and determination through the Vatican and Rome in this guided tour of what he calls the “spiritual and political center of [a] vast international network,” the “visible civic arm of the Holy See.”
Hutchinson, a longtime journalistic Vatican observer, has previously written on gambling and vice, which equips him perfectly for his mission. With irony and humor, he prefaces short chapters with quotes from previous literary commentators on all that is awe-inspiring and inspirational about the Vatican and Rome, and explores the history and present of the Vatican in rich and formal detail. Yet he humanizes the historical aspects of the papacy and reveals centuries of struggle for sanctity and power. He describes the opulence within the sacred walls of St. Peter’s and walks out wondering, “Who dusts all of this stuff?” Or provides an encyclopedic explanation of the various garments worn by bishops and priests of different sects the world over, at the same time noting the abyss that hangs between “smug churchy professionals . . . and . . .the buoyant faith of the hapless pilgrims”—the young believers who flock to this site year after year for a glimpse and a snapshot. The Vatican emerges as a crazy mosaic that has withstood the equally crazy maze of history that brought us here. At last, a richer guidebook lies herein for its deep reverence for the role of religion in history, as expressed by this singular city both in anecdote and document. So Hutchinson walks out of an interview with a papal accountant-type “. . . with the green Consolidated Financial Statement and five black rosaries—not a bad metaphor, I thought, of what the Vatican is like.”
Always informative, slightly irreverent, deeply interested, Hutchinson sometimes finds life en famille in Rome tedious but shares his excitement at discovering the extraordinary world of the Vatican with captivating enthusiasm.
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)