Franzen (Farther Away: Essays, 2012, etc.) discovered Austrian essayist, playwright and poet Karl Kraus (1874–1936) when he studied in Berlin in 1981-1982. A prominent social critic in early-20th-century Vienna, Kraus had been long forgotten, but his work resonated with Franzen, who saw the sharp, bitter writer as a kindred spirit. Franzen calls Kraus a “farseeing prophet” who hated, above all, the media, which thrived on gossip and was antagonistic to the “kind of spirituality/imaginativeness that, as Kraus saw it, makes us human.” As a kind of homage, Franzen has translated four of Kraus’ essays for this bilingual, profusely annotated edition. He warns readers that Kraus is a difficult writer, and in translation, his work comes across as stilted and awkward. The essays themselves, however, may be less interesting to readers than the extensive annotations. Sometimes a few lines by Kraus, for example, are followed by several pages of notes: Franzen’s autobiographical ruminations and detailed, informative historical context by Ohio State professor Paul Reitter. Novelist Daniel Kehlmann, a friend of Franzen, also rings in with comments. Franzen’s personal reflections focus on his response to Kraus, his early ambitions and frustrations as a writer, his engagement to the woman he eventually married and the reasons he embraced “anger as a way of life” at the age of 22. Although he claims that he has outgrown his former rage, like Kraus, he is critical of much in his own culture: Apple products, Steve Jobs, French literary theory, Salman Rushdie’s tweets, 1,000-page biographies, the blogosphere, Amazon, John Updike, social media, Facebook and assaults to the natural environment.
Readers interested in Kraus will be better served by Reitter’s The Anti-Journalist: Karl Kraus and Jewish Self-Fashioning (2008). This book is for Franzen’s fans.
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").