Poet and philanthropy chairman McVay describes, in prose and verse, his eventful life and his meetings with remarkable men, women, and animals.
McVay, a Princeton alum, went from Cold War–era service in 1950s Berlin, where he met his wife, Hella, to a detour into natural science; he stayed after a lecture by animal-communication expert John C. Lilly and asked so many insightful questions that Lilly hired him as an assistant. Thus was McVay exposed to the minds and ways of marine mammals—predominantly dolphins and whales, whose underwater language Lilly spent his career studying. As the eventual head of both the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, McVay mingled with some of the great minds of the 20th century; he describes interactions with, among others, Isaac Asimov, Charles Lindbergh (whom he characterizes as being misinformed about whales), Prince Philip of England, Ralph Nader, Hillary Clinton, primatologist Dian Fossey (and Sigourney Weaver, who portrayed Fossey in the 1988 film Gorillas in the Mist), as well as luminaries of the World Wildlife Fund and the Chautauqua Institution (of which he became president). At one point in this book of reminiscences, the author quotes a character in Lily King’s novel Euphoria, who says that “We’re always, in everything we do in this world, limited by subjectivity,” and he sees it as “a cautionary thought for anyone trying to put together ‘an anecdotal biography.’ ” McVay follows that method here, recounting his eventful life mainly in short, pithy tales of meetings with remarkable people—and animals. He also sprinkles examples of his verse throughout this book, usually attached to a matching anecdote. Overall, this wide-ranging book compensates in passion and spirit what it may lack in cohesion. Conservation causes and eco-initiatives are strongly on the author’s broad mind, for example, as is the relative lack of recognition for modern female poets. He has little time or regard for climate change deniers or the Koch brothers, but he notes when someone makes a choice that benefits the planet.
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)