A Francophile learns about life from French novels.
Growing up in rural England, comedian, journalist, and podcast host Groskop wanted desperately to escape the conformity and dullness that surrounded her. Being French, she decided at a young age, “represented something so exciting for me: dynamism, energy, heat.” She studied French in school, went to France on school exchanges, and had French-speaking pen pals. As she boasts repeatedly in this breezy, enthusiastic riff on 12 canonical (white, mostly male) writers, she learned to speak and read the language fluently, and she diligently immersed herself in Frenchness, “snorting up every little croissant crumb of culture and language I could find.” Acquiring Frenchness brought her joy, she writes, and reading French literature has been “meaningful and life-changing.” However, her attempt to show “the intersection between Frenchness and happiness” by glossing over works by Proust, Hugo, Camus, Flaubert, Balzac and others is unconvincing. From Françoise Sagan she learns that the French version of happiness is “being young—or stubbornly young at heart” and “living in the moment.” From Colette’s Gigi, “a slightly messier Cinderella story,” she learns that “we can’t all be born with agency and choices” but still can end up content. From Victor Hugo, she discovers that “personal happiness is intimately linked to having a clear conscience.” Cyrano de Bergerac “is about body positivity”; like Gigi, Cyrano’s “overall philosophy is this: make the most of what you’ve got and play to your strengths.” From Guy de Maupassant, who, though a literary star, suffered from syphilis and tried twice to commit suicide, Groskop learned “that life is actually played out in a haze of different shades of gray.” Stendhal teaches her “about the tempestuous nature of desire.” There seems nothing particularly French about these life lessons, and, in the end, the author admits that her Francophilia came from needing “a pretend foreign identity in order to feel happy”—a need she has happily outgrown.
An exuberant yet superficial celebration of French classics.
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)