Warm, witty recollections well-aware of their absurdity.




Absurdity and drama go hand in hand in Baysden’s witty, loopy memoir of his time as a Navy adviser during the Vietnam War. 

This slim volume tells of the shenanigans Baysden and several of his colleagues got up to while he was serving as a U.S. Navy lieutenant. Over the course of a year starting in 1968, Baysden was a senior adviser to the Vietnamese in the Mekong Delta, based in and around Rach Gia (usually mispronounced as “rock jaw,” ergo the book’s title). For various reasons, Baysden’s posting was given a fair amount of resources and very little “adult supervision,” as Baysden puts it. On top of that, the advisers, including the author, were only on duty for five days out of every 10, allowing the misbehavior to reach impressive levels. Long-running poker games, frequent trips to every brothel (aka “ladies clubs”) within traveling distance, gambling on which traps would catch giant rats and in which order: these are only some of the events Baysden describes with good humor and plentiful wit. That’s not to say the horrors of war didn’t occasionally intrude, but those horrors—which Baysden describes with respect and sensitivity, even in cases of wild coincidence or absurdity—were not commonplace in his experience, a fact for which Baysden is profoundly and profusely grateful. Literature about the Vietnam conflict is replete with grim, powerful stories of hardship and loss, so Baysden’s memoir is immediately striking for the light, joyful attitude in its pages, without ignoring the realities on the ground. If there is a downside to the stories here, it’s that they are rather disjointed, presented seemingly in the order the author remembered them, with characters mentioned before they’re introduced and given context. Baysden is well-aware of this, however, outrightly stating it as an issue within the first few pages, so readers are at least forewarned. Still, fans of often hilarious literature that explores the ridiculous nature of war—including Catch-22, which Baysden explicitly references—will feel right at home.

Warm, witty recollections well-aware of their absurdity. 

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4834-3418-6

Page Count: 142

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet



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

Did you like this book?

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.


A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?