An anthology containing some of the most amusing, insightful, and moving sports writing from the past year. Sure, series editor Stout and guest editor Boswell (Cracking the Show, p. 294) might not have extended their search to every hamlet with a sports page, as the preponderance of Sports Illustrated and New Yorker pieces clearly indicates. However, the fact that nearly all of the submissions faithfully depict athletes and their exploits as part of a grander choreography clearly establishes that many of the authors included are famous (or infamous) for good reason. Among the best entries are Bruce Buschel's ``Lips Get Smacked,'' a profane, Runyonesque trip to an Atlantic City casino with Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Lenny Dykstra (``Watching Lenny Dykstra gamble is like having an orchestra seat at a one-character David Mamet tragicomic- psychodrama. You are appalled and delighted by the language and the largesse''); Davis Miller's ``The Zen of Muhammad Ali,'' a touching portrait of The Champ battling the march of time and Parkinson's Syndrome—possibly the result of taking too many punches—with a generosity and dignity that fans seldom attribute to sports heroes; and Frank Deford's ``Running Man,'' an examination of the far- reaching effect of Phil Knight and his $3.7 billion sneaker-making, sports-marketing, and entertainment colossus, Nike. Nearly all the selections display uncanny wit and flourish, and these writers have the imagination to shun the obvious ``feet of clay'' athlete profiles to deliver realistic, humane portraits of people who, like many of us, have either risen to face life's adversity or turned tail and fled. Not just the best sports writing, some of the best writing anywhere. Period.
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)