A debut memoir that also reflects on the cultural transformation of the American South during the 20th century.
Haas-Bennett was born in 1927 in Durham, North Carolina, the descendant of old, Southern aristocracy, or as she puts it, “old plantation stock.” By the time of her birth, her family had little money but lived among antique relics of their former wealth—including furniture that they couldn’t afford to replace. Their area of North Carolina hadn’t received too many newcomers since the 1600s, she says, so intermarriage between distant family members was common—the author’s mother and father were fifth cousins. Haas-Bennett sensitively relates how the post-bellum South, in the middle of the 1900s, was experiencing a slow metamorphosis; while many vestiges of the Old South remained—particularly virulent racism, including segregation—there was also a liberal push for integration. She had plenty of occasions to experience this tense dichotomy; for instance, she and her first husband, writer Ben Haas, were threatened by members of the White Citizens Council, a pro-segregation group, when they withheld their support. After graduating from the Richmond Professional Institute College of William and Mary in 1948, the author opened a modest custom costume shop and designed clothes for dolls and debutantes, and this would remain her profession for most of her life. Haas-Bennett’s remembrance—co-authored by her former costume shop employee, debut authorHughes, who provides a prologue—is more anecdotally impressionistic than autobiographically exhaustive. As such, each chapter offers a charming, if meandering, vignette of recollection. The book concludes with a series of short contributions from those who know the author well, including her three sons and several former employees. Much of the Haas-Bennett’s attention is devoted to the idiosyncratic details of her life—which included two marriages and years of living in Austria—and although these reflections are relaxed and pleasant in tone, they’re likely to be of interest mostly to those who know her personally. However, her considerations of the South are remarkably nuanced while addressing its struggle with the legacy of slavery.
A wandering remembrance that offers astute commentary on the South.
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)