Sunday, June 4, 2023

Denny Lien

I didn't mention Denny Lien when he died nearly two months ago, but now that a memorial fanzine of his writings has been published, I'd like to pay tribute to two of his signal virtues.

First, his skill as a reference librarian. As a librarian myself, and having a modicum of that skill and training, I can recognize a true master when I see one. Denny had the particular talent of being able to make small and intricate corrections without seeming to be drowning in trivial distractions.

Second, the selfless care he took of his ailing wife, Terry Garey. I didn't know Denny very well, but Terry is an old friend of mine from a long way back, the same vintage and environment as the late Andi Shechter, and I appreciate what Denny could do for her.

The fanzine has a few examples of Denny's learning and wit that generate responses of mine.

First, on page 11 is a newspaper letter to the editor decrying "the technique of proving the obscurity of a subject on the basis of its nonappearance in a totally inappropriate reference work." I found a choice example of that once, years ago. An orchestra member had the job of giving preconcert talks, and was faced with the responsibility of speaking on Carmina Burana, a work he loathed. His technical analysis of it was actually pretty good, but he tripped up in attempting to prove that Carl Orff was a composer of utmost insignificance. "He isn't even listed in the authoritative St. James Press guide to Contemporary Composers." I'd used this reference work and I raised my hand. "The St. James Press guide to Contemporary Composers," I said, "says in its foreword that its coverage is limited to composers still alive at the date of compilation. Orff had already been dead for a decade, so he wasn't eligible any more than Stravinsky or Bartok, who aren't there either."

Also on page 11 is Denny's simple recipe for pizza. (Remove the frozen pizza from the box, heat it up and eat it.) I've seen an even simpler pizza recipe, that's capable of providing better results:
Pizza. Ingredients: 1. Phone. 2. Coupon.

The garbling of Carl Akeley's name as Earl Akaley, corrected by Denny on page 27, reminds me of the worst such garbling I've seen. In a published transcription of tape recordings of the conversation of Philip K. Dick, Phil twice mentions a composer named Schmenkna. There is no such composer. It's pretty obvious that he's referring to Bedřich Smetana.

1 comment:

  1. May his memory be a blessing. I have also heard about his tender care of Terry, whom I knew and liked from time in an apartment with her.