Lewis (The Guns of Cedar Creek, 1988) attempts—with little success—to give a fresh view of the youthful George Washington. To Lewis, Washington was ``an ordinary young man—vain, burning with ambition, possessing few advantages,'' who embodied ``two of the most grievous flaws in our American society: our collective contempt for other races, and our exploitation of land as a commodity of trade.'' He paints a portrait of the future President as a small-minded, well-connected parvenu of little innate ability whose aspirations to become an English-style aristocratic leader of Virginia led him into repeatedly unsuccessful military adventures against the French. Lewis argues, unremarkably, that the hard trials of the French and Indian Wars, in which Washington and the colonial as well as the British forces met numerous defeats—spectacularly, at Fort Necessity and in the disaster near Fort Duquesne, where an army under Britain's General Braddock was savagely decimated by Indians—cauterized Washington for the tribulations of the American Revolution. But while Lewis recounts the facts of his subject's early military career accurately enough, he seems to share the dim view that numerous British officials took of the warrior's abilities, and, in the end, the author credits Washington only for having ``completed a lonely and difficult initiation.'' While Lewis succeeds in humanizing Washington, he emphasizes the young man's vices rather than the courage and steadfastness of purpose that have endeared him to posterity and that early on were evident in his character. A wearisome exercise in historical iconoclasm that adds little, except some moralizing, to classic biographies by Douglas S. Freeman, James T. Flexner, and others. (Eight pages of b&w photographs—not seen.)
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").