An English schoolteacher describes his year in the Solomon Islands on a development project.
After ten years of teaching French and German to unmotivated students in the West Country, Randall was handed an adventure. A man known as “the Commander” had died; the executors of his estate were looking for someone to travel to his former coconut and cocoa plantation on the Solomon Islands. It had fallen into disrepair, and Randall was hired to come up with a project that would provide income for the villagers to use on community improvements. When he arrives on Mendali, a fishing village reachable only by canoe, he is immediately exposed to “Solomon time . . . a fluid that cannot be contained, that has no master, that sloshes backward and forward and even from side to side . . . schedules and timetables become irrelevancies.” What follows is that welcome rarity, a travelogue that does not mock or belittle the locals. Randall is painfully aware that his “mission” is paternalistic and that the Commander was a remnant of the Colonial past. No matter: he sets about learning how to speak Pijin (“Goodfella mornen long yu. Yu oraet?” means “Good morning. Are you well?”), how to paddle a canoe (with disastrous results), and how to fit into his new home. For the development project, Randall and the villagers decide to raise chickens. Several amusing episodes later, the residents open a fast-food stand in the local market and eventually an outlet in town (“Chicken Willy’s—Nambawan Nice One”). The resulting funds allow repairs to the church and the installation of a new rainwater tank, among other things. Along the way, the talented Randall writes compellingly of the landscape and the culture, throwing in excerpts from Robinson Crusoe and Robert Louis Stevenson’s In the South Seas.
A wonderful story and a rare treat for the armchair traveler.
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").