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Letter: Defending Larry Sandberg’s Book

Letter: Defending Larry Sandberg’s Book

by Harry Fleishman

Originally published in American Lutherie #67, 2001


Dear Guild,

Benjamin Hoff takes what seems like a pretty severe dislike to my friend Larry Sandberg’s book, The Acoustic Guitar Guide, from its title, to its tone, to its content. What many have enjoyed, the folksy tone Larry takes, offends Hoff. He’s certainly entitled to dislike it. However, he seems intent on nitpicking as a way of discrediting the author and his work. He quotes Sandberg and brackets “sic” after “epitome” as though the word or idea were used incorrectly, and he knew better. But the word and idea are correct as a quick glance at a dictionary will show. He objects to a brief history, but this is not a history book. He objects that Sandberg writes, “the steel-strung flattop is probably the kind of guitar you want. It’s the kind of guitar most people want.” Of course Sandberg is not psychic, but even a quick look at any store that sells guitars will show this to be true. The sales of steel-strung to nylon, or to any other kind is about ten to one. I think the problem is that Hoff doesn’t agree. He is entitled to that opinion, too. However, he neglects to write that in his discussion of classical guitars, Sandberg explains why one would or would not want a nylon strung guitar, who uses them, and what they do and don’t provide musically. I think that is sufficient. Hoff writes that the chapter about flattop guitars should be designated “factory” guitars. Yet, Sandberg writes separately about custom and handbuilt guitars. (Full disclosure: Two of my guitars are on the cover of this book and I’m very proud of that. Also, as a friend of Larry’s and a sometime author, I know the depth of his knowledge as well as the limitations, constraints, and hype-oriented zeal of the publishing world.) Certainly, the subtitle is a bit over the top. That’s publishing, folks. No book could be everything to all people and Hoff’s right: the subtitle shouldn’t say it can. That said, I think this one does what it purports: it guides potential players towards a guitar and helps guitar owners to maintain their instruments. As a reviewer myself I would not wish to see Hoff or anyone else censored in their reviews, nor to see only positive reviews. Sandberg’s book has received many other positive reviews. I disagree with Hoff’s assessment and wanted to add my voice to that discussion. ◆