Fascinating and unusually (though not completely) frank insider's account of Kremlin politics during the Gorbachev era. Ligachev, Gorbachev's former deputy, comes off here as both more interesting and more complicated than the conventional picture of him as the ``arch villain'' of the democratization process. As Stephen Cohen says in his valuable introduction, even political figures loyal to Gorbachev have characterized Ligachev as being ``deeply sincere, proudly incorruptible, and habitually straightforward in his political relations.'' One indication of this was Ligachev's relegation for 17 years to the Party organization in Siberia. He was recalled to Moscow in 1983 by Andropov and seems sincerely to have shared Gorbachev's vision of a reformed Communism, in part because his own and his wife's families suffered severely under Stalin. Ligachev testifies to the general acceptance by the bureaucracy of the need for reform. He was deeply impressed by Gorbachev, he says, but at some fairly early stage, Gorbachev went further than Ligachev thought appropriate. Time and again, Ligachev returns to the question of what caused Gorbachev's downfall. Was it the Soviet premier's attraction to the aura of the ``enlightened monarch''? Was it a lack of practicality, or was it that Gorbachev was surrounded by those who, in Ligachev's view, deliberately led him astray? Ligachev says that he repeatedly tried to persuade Gorbachev of the coming debacle, sometimes with biting humor. Of one of his letters to Gorbachev, he says here that ``under Stalin, you would have lost your head for a letter like that. Under Khrushchev, you would have been fired. Under Brezhnev, you would have been made an Ambassador to Africa. And under Gorbachev, you were simply ignored.'' Ligachev doesn't go into the history of the attempted coup, and he often seems trapped by rhetoric—e.g., attacking ``slander'' against the Party. Still: a valuable contribution to the history of the period, and an absorbing self-portrait. (B&w photos—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").
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)