An inviting exchange of stories and ideas across two continents and half a tumultuous decade.


The Sweden File


A conscientious objector flees enlistment in Vietnam by making a new life in Sweden in this posthumous autobiographical collection.

Bruce Proctor’s memoir, compiled and edited by his younger brother, poet and novelist Alan Robert Proctor (Adirondack Summer, 2013, etc.), revisits the late 1960s: the horrors of total war in Vietnam, the unpredictable tides of the American counterculture, and the feeling of being young in a mad world. “Not fear of death, but fear of not being able to live while taking part in killing” is what drives Bruce to renounce his citizenship and leave the country when the National Guard is called up in 1968. “I was born to be a Swede,” Bruce declares on arrival in the Scandinavian country, and he’s besotted by the ease of life and the clear summer light. But the nights grow long, work is hard to find, and whiskey is too easily available. He works in the warehouse of a chemical plant, then as a lumber hand, then by driving a taxi. He goes back to school to earn a master’s degree but eventually sours on academia. Finally, in 1972, he and his wife decamp for Canada. The letters and journal entries here read as a kind of collage of the period: writers and addressees switch off, stories of sailing and camping sit alongside reflections on the horrors of war, the uselessness of the American opposition, newspaper clippings, photographs, and Alan’s own poems. “He could be humorous, pragmatic, philosophical, obtuse, and mystical all in one paragraph,” the editor writes of his brother, who died in 2011, and all those qualities are evident here. Editor Proctor has obviously put great patience and care into selecting these fragments, and the time was well-spent: readers are never lost, always engaged, and often charmed by the liveliness of Bruce’s prose (and of Alan’s verse scattered throughout the text). “It is not unusual for a Swede not to speak if he has nothing to say and perhaps it is this quality which gives the impression of depth,” Bruce writes at one point. Neither brother holds his tongue in this collection, and readers are richer for it.

An inviting exchange of stories and ideas across two continents and half a tumultuous decade. 

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63-391195-6

Page Count: 254

Publisher: Westphalia Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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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)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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