A doctor with a conscience celebrates the preciousness of all human life in grim stories of death and dying among society's outcasts. The site of these graphic accounts is one 17-bed unit at the Spellman Center for HIV Related Diseases at New York City's St. Clare's Hospital. For over three years Baxter was a physician at this ``improbable crucible of despair and hope,'' treating paroled rapists, homeless alcoholics, drug addicts, and drag queens under third-world conditions—cockroaches and rodents in filthy rooms where ceilings seem always to be crumbling and the plumbing doesn't work; doctors in other parts of the hospital refuse Baxter's requests for consultations with his patients. He describes his typical workday with its multiple frustrations and seemingly insoluble problems, and the routine of Sister Pascal Comforti, director of pastoral care, whose problems with patients and their often fragmented families seem even more difficult than the author's. He presents dignified, compassionate portraits of patients (with names changed), including foul-mouthed Rosa, found comatose and half-naked in a subway tunnel; Sarah, who has sex in the hospital stairwells and smokes crack in the linen closets; Todd, a partial transsexual who refuses a needed medical procedure that he fears would mar his beautiful breasts; and demented Enrique, an ex-prisoner with both tuberculosis and AIDS. Baxter takes his title from Matthew 25:40, in which Jesus says to the righteous: ``Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.'' These words explain for Baxter why caring for such people is so necessary. Among the lessons he draws from his patients is that we are all living on borrowed time, and that if the ``least of these'' can face death without fear, so can we. Intended to inspire, this powerful book succeeds more often in shocking and angering the reader at the harrowing conditions to which these patients are subjected.
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)