However lyrically written, Nekola's memoir of a St. Louis girlhood in the 50's offers a pitiless assessment of the hard- working, emotionally austere family that produced her. Nekola (Schweitzer Fellow/William Paterson College) was raised in an extended family of limited means, modest goals, and unfulfilled ambitions. Among its members were a resourceful grandmother who secretly drew dress designs; maiden aunts seemingly without personal histories; an educated mother who wore white gloves to the butcher shop and died before she could write the children's stories she planned on; a traveling and alcoholic father who left an incomplete, idealized autobiography written for a night-school class; a reclusive brother who dropped out of school and life; and a manic-depressive sister who walked away one day and died homeless and addicted at age 46. Nekola writes powerfully about the small things—clothes, food, family activities, the can opener with a lifetime guarantee that her father bought her, a bicycle excursion, her mother's recipe box, and the happiest minutes of her life, when, in 1960, her family gathered to watch an eclipse of the moon and became their ``original selves,'' ``five moon-gazing animals.'' But her tale is flawed by an objective narration that holds up her life like a jar of homemade jelly to be inspected for clarity and color, by her admitted failure to find in anyone an inner life, and by her attempt to turn her story into a feminist tract, even though there is no power to struggle over. In the world Nekola depicts—as opposed to the judgments she imposes on it—the struggle for men and women alike is one for simple survival, biological and emotional: an unheroic marathon in which adults perform the necessary tasks of domesticity.
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)