This lyrical meditation on Siberia by one of Russia's best- known contemporary novelists (Live and Remember, 1978, etc.) mingles the spiritual and historical for a portrait of its hero- -Siberia itself. July 1996 is a timely publication date for the English translation of Rasputin's tribute to Siberia. Now that the Cold War is over, the time has come for Americans to put aside narrow images of Siberia as the home of labor camps and endless iciness. In his exceedingly romantic, even spiritual essay, this native son presents a multifaceted portrait of his homeland, offering reflections on subjects as wide-ranging as architecture, history, geography, ecology, and anthropology. Connecting it all is Rasputin's deeply felt Siberian patriotism and his environmentalism, both of which contain clear moral and spiritual dimensions. He decries ``Russia's practice of squeezing out and hauling off all the best in Siberia while dumping its worst there, including human rejects,'' and brings a fresh perspective to the current debates on colonialism. The environmental devastation of his homeland, especially of the incomparable Lake Baikal, plays a pivotal role in Rasputin's activism directed at repairing the damages caused by years of Soviet rule. Indeed, Rasputin's tale of the destruction of Siberia's natural beauty by countless dams and factories is a parable for the fate of Russia itself. He writes: ``Maybe nature stands between God and human beings. And until you unite with nature, you won't move forward. It won't let you.'' With a melodramatic religious fervor for national salvation that echoes Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, Siberia, Siberia vividly admonishes Russians to return to a purer relationship with their own history and natural surroundings, and it holds up Siberia as the image of both Russia's past sins and her potential redemption. (16 photos, 2 maps)
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)