A rags-to-riches memoir ponders the power of human potential.
Born in a beautiful farming village in eastern Nigeria, Ndukwe (The Courage to Aspire, 2018, etc.) writes fondly of loving parents and caring teachers who shaped his character. When a Methodist church opened a school in his area, he was not quite 4 years old, but he still attended and excelled. His “life altering magic moment” occurred when two American electrical engineers performed a science demonstration in his classroom—with wires, a battery, and the flip of a switch, they made a light bulb shine. That’s when the excited student decided to become an electrical engineer. He not only ended up working in electrical engineering, he also earned computer science degrees in the U.S. at Boston’s Northeastern University and worked for companies like USRobotics. At his highest point, he was a manager at Lucent Technologies, designing internet gateways. After the U.S. technology sector bust, the author lost everything. His most painful experience was a bitter divorce—his wife ran away with his children. Homeless, hungry, and angry, he turned to God for answers and, ultimately, he worked his way out of the mire. The author’s childhood anecdotes are vivid. For example, when he received the highest grade on a final exam, it’s easy to imagine the boy’s beaming face as his teacher allowed him to stand on a table while the class clapped. Sometimes the memories are powerfully moving, as when the 12-year-old Ndukwe was asked to bathe his baby sister’s dead body. Each chapter also ends with the author’s takeaways, or thoughts for reader reflection. While well-intentioned, these numbered thoughts are often redundant, interrupting the flow of otherwise fluid prose. For example, at the end of a chapter about his instructors, he writes: “The teachers’ love and affection for a child can have a profound positive impact on the child.” While true, this sentiment is already evident in his anecdotes about his compassionate teachers. Despite this snag, Ndukwe’s spirited storytelling makes the book worthwhile.
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)