A roaming, rambunctious account about rejecting society—and then embracing it.

ACID TEST

A memoir discusses morality and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the 1980s punk scene.

One might not associate Salt Lake City with the counterculture, but in the mid-’80s, the city boasted a punk scene awash in drugs, sex, and rock ’n’ roll. It was in this milieu that Bigelow (The Latter-day Saint Family Encyclopedia, 2019, etc.), fresh from high school, began to move beyond the good-and-evil morality of his upbringing by “middle-range Mormons.” Borrowing from the tabletop game Dungeons and Dragons (Bigelow’s preferred means of escape during his early adolescence), the author adopted the philosophy of chaotic neutrality: “In D&D, neutral basically meant selfish—I did what I needed for my own comfort, but I didn’t hurt others for evil purposes, and I didn’t conform to some one-size-fits-all system of good.” What was so bad, after all, about casual sex, recreational drug use, and some minor theft here and there? Then, under the influence of LSD and Stephen King’s post-apocalyptic novel The Stand, Bigelow began to probe the unseen world—and he didn’t exactly like what he found. One night, after an INXS concert, drunk and on speed, the author suffered a strange encounter: a violent, angry attack that he called “a disturbance in the Force.” The experience forced Bigelow to confront a larger question: Did evil really exist? And was he better off as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than as an unaligned hedonist? The author’s prose is conversational but steeped in its own cleverly outlined philosophy, as here where Bigelow describes the guilt he felt from stealing from his roommate: “After he left for work, we packed our stuff into cardboard boxes, including Scott’s combat boots and several records. If possible, we would’ve taken his TV, stereo, and other stuff too. As we drove north, I felt a little guilty. Had we crossed the line from chaotic neutral into chaotic evil?” While the author is an able storyteller with plenty of colorful anecdotes, his interest in morality provides a unique ballast in what would otherwise be a typical but entertaining tale of adolescent mischief. His evocative depiction of the time and its subcultures helps to make this a memorable and ultimately quite surprising autobiography.

A roaming, rambunctious account about rejecting society—and then embracing it.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-9993472-3-2

Page Count: 298

Publisher: Zarahemla Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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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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