One of the livelier critics of the contemporary art scene (Has Modernism Failed?, 1984—not reviewed) tries to trace the roots of the present crisis in aesthetics and to map out some ways of escape. Gablik's thesis is not original. ``Since the Enlightenment,'' she maintains, ``our view of what is real has been organized around the hegemony of a technological and materialist world view...we no longer have any sense of having a soul.'' Spirituality and ritual have been the first casualties of this attitude, but the most profound reordering, Gablick says, has occurred in the area of social relations, as the spread of individualistic philosophies has weakened or destroyed the cohesion of traditional communal structures—leading to the modern artist understanding his or her vocation in terms of the objects created rather than the audience addressed. If the artist has any awareness of the audience at all, it is usually seen as a hostile force to be either ignored or shocked (this is the lesson Gablik draws from Richard Serra's Tilted Arc controversy). What is needed, we are told, is an aesthetics of ``interaction and connection,'' in which the artist works to restore the lost harmony between humanity and earth, and to override the alienation of race, sex, and class. At this point Gablik's argument falls into New Age obscurantism and is weakened further in that most of the exemplars of her approach (sculptors who design carts for the homeless, photographers who document toxic-waste dumping, etc.) sound more like social workers or advocacy lawyers than artists. A valuable analysis that brings forth incredible conclusions. Gablick has apparently fallen into a deconstructionist vocabulary that allows her to play fast-and-loose with concepts of ``art'' and ``creation,'' resulting in a confusion little better than the one she set out to overcome. (Thirty-two illustrations.)
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)