Autobiographical essays that outline the days before and after a parent’s death.
“My mother appears regularly to me in the form of a dragonfly—or so I like to think,” writes Panning (Creative Writing/The Coll. at Brockport; Butter, 2012, etc.) at the start of this graceful bereavement memoir. In some cultures, she learned, dragonflies are hailed as the souls of the dead, and she whimsically appropriates this notion as she chronicles the decade following her mother’s demise. Barbara “Barb” Panning died in July 2007, three years after she’d had a mesh bladder sling surgically implanted to correct pelvic organ prolapse. A Food and Drug Administration warning against such slings came into effect the next year, following more than 1,000 complaints about side effects, the author writes. In Barb’s case, these effects included a hematoma and incontinence. A corrective surgery, Panning says, left her mother in hemorrhagic shock, and her organs shut down. After three weeks, the family decided to take her off of life support: “I wanted it to end, but I never wanted it to end,” Panning remembers. She offers similarly nuanced memories of her family’s earlier years. While looking through her mother’s yearbooks and a cache of apology notes that her father wrote to her mom over the years, she wondered why Barb stayed with him, despite his drinking problem, which he even had in high school. Panning, a 2007 Flannery O’Connor Award winner, delivers a remembrance that’s bittersweet with nostalgia and longing, but it never wallows in sadness, highlighting bright spots too—a jazz club outing with her mother,a six-month sabbatical that the author took in Vietnam with her husband and children,and a time when she and her sister re-created their mother’s lemon dessert. There are also dragonfly moments, often appearing as brief interludes between longer essays, including accounts of clouds of the insects surrounding a cruise ship or swarming the author on a jog. To her, the insects represent “sacredness” and “fleeting beauty”—the very things that her narrative seems determined to find.
An affecting remembrance in which pinpricks of meaning light the darkness of grief.
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)