An intriguing, sometimes-thrilling account of remote Alaskan life in 1979.

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THE WINTER OF ’79

JOURNALS OF A WILDERNESS WIFE

A writer recounts a particularly difficult year for her parents homesteading in the Alaskan wilderness in this memoir.

For Cutting’s (Where the Moose Slept, 2017, etc.) free-spirited parents, Tim and Kate Peters, their rugged life on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula was worth it for the beauty that surrounded them. Sure, they might have to travel hours for every amenity and labor for every comfort, but it allowed them to raise their infant daughter (the author) on a mountain with panoramic views, amid fields of wildflowers and alder forests where moose slept. This second volume of Cutting’s ongoing account of her family’s time in Alaska depicts one year when the remoteness of their home put particular pressures on the Peters household. The summer of 1979 was tricky enough. The author relates the time her mother was surprised to come home to find a man standing in their kitchen wielding a large hunting knife and describes a brush fire that nearly engulfed the property. While this was all going on, Cutting’s parents were racing to insulate and furnish their newly built house for the approaching cold. With their only neighbors away for the winter, the couple was forced to deal with mounting snow, impassable roads, cabin fever, and unexpected illness—trials that put their love of Alaska to the ultimate test. Cutting writes in a simple, understated prose that communicates the dire straits of her family while also downplaying its fears: “Kate watched as the raking whiteness howled past. She and her infant companion huddled together, listening apathetically to the perverse winds.” The author, who was a baby at the time, has fashioned the narrative from her parents’ recollections and her mother’s letters, many of which are included in the text. The sequel, which features family photographs, does not attempt to play up the drama, nor does it really investigate either Tim or Kate as complex characters. Rather, its goal is to present the day-to-day demands of living in a harsh climate far from the niceties of civilization. For those interested in feats of hard work and ingenuity at the edge of the world, the book delivers nicely.

An intriguing, sometimes-thrilling account of remote Alaskan life in 1979.

Pub Date: April 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9995061-9-6

Page Count: 294

Publisher: Echo Hill Arts Press, LLC

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

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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