A young Jewish boy trips painfully through his midcentury childhood in this debut memoir.
Kagan describes himself as an overweight, magic-trick-performing, clarinet-playing, comedy-loving middle child in this reminiscence. He was raised in a Jewish family in Dallas, Texas, during the 1950s and ’60s, and his upbringing is reminiscent of the narrator’s in the 1983 film A Christmas Story (itself based on author Jean Shepherd’s 1966 novel In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash); for example, Kagan tells of trying to keep his parents ignorant of his classroom antics while begging them for a Red Rider BB gun. He recounts various episodes, such as when he accidentally burned down the family’s toolshed while pretending to be the Lone Ranger, and when his friend Melvin Schliffstein shot him in the eye with a peanut from a slingshot. Another story recounts how the 11-year-old author discovered masturbation and was terrified that his parents were about to give him a sex talk; instead, they informed him that it was “time for us to tell you all about what it means to be Jewish.” He later recalls being asked by a girl in middle school if he’d ever gotten past first base, quipping that “my physique resembled a bag of bats, balls, and bases versus those who actually hit and ran the bases.” Male readers who came of age during the same time period will relate to many of the author’s reminiscences. Kagan is a natural, energetic storyteller, and his tales have a solid sense of structure. Unfortunately, their humor is often overly broad and dated—think Billy Crystal’s work, but with more of a fondness for grossness. Kagan appears highly amused by his book’s title, and he gets plenty of mileage out of it; his Reader’s Guide begins, “I’m so honored your book club has gotten into My Shorts, as odd as that may sound!” The overall result is a fairly familiar series of awkward anecdotes about a horny teenage boy and his overbearing relations, which won’t be to everyone’s taste.
A self-deprecating remembrance that’s hampered by unsubtle humor.
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)