In this debut memoir, the only surviving member of a dysfunctional family explores the internal demons that plagued her loved ones.
“I’m the last person alive in my immediate family,” Bloom tells readers right up front. Before finishing the first page, the audience knows that both of the author’s brothers, Marshall and Alan, committed suicide. Her father was a thriving, functional alcoholic. And her mother, dutiful keeper of the hearth and social propriety, was often consumed either by sadness or rage. As the last in her line—the last to remember and be able to tell their story—Bloom looks back to gain greater understanding and acceptance of a nuclear family filled with dissension, miscommunication, and alienation. She begins by describing her grandparents. Her mother’s parents (Celia and Hyman Gershkovitz) and her dad’s father (Pizer Bloom) were Jewish Polish immigrants. Her paternal grandmother (Ida Bloom) was born in New York City but was the daughter of Jewish Polish immigrants. Both families wound up in Denver, where their respective offspring, Lillian Gershkovitz and Sam Bloom, met. The author’s parents wed in 1937, and she, their middle child and only daughter, was born in 1941. Turbulence at home and the social upheavals of the ’60s sent the siblings in different directions. Bloom’s articulate narrative follows a general chronological order but also moves back and forth in time as she examines her relationship with each family member. The account is peppered with some singular, intimate portraits of Denver’s mid-20th-century Orthodox Jewish community. Recalling a visit to her maternal grandparents, whom she called Zayda and Bubbie, Bloom writes: “Peering in the bathtub, I saw a large, live fish. Zayda had bought a carp so Bubbie could make gefilte fish for Pesach.” But these lighter episodes are the exception. Mostly, this is an exposure of the dynamics that left three adult offspring (all of them childless) feeling isolated and insecure. Of her own survival and success, Bloom concludes: “I...had the better luck and timing.” Family photographs reveal the happier moments.
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)