A fragmented, occasionally powerful memoir about life and death. Swan’s debut memoir chronicles his life leading up to a near-death experience, the strange beauty of the experience itself and the changes in his life thereafter. During an angioplasty on Jan. 12, 2010, a rare blood clot formed around a stent in Swan’s heart, sending him into cardiac arrest and medical death. According to Swan’s elliptical prose, surgeons and family members claim to have witnessed a miracle: Against all odds and despite incredible blood loss, potentially problematic disinfection procedures and probable brain damage, Swan pulled through the surgery, returning to the world after a brief death. Doctors claimed “there must have been something inside [Swan] that made [him] want to survive.” Questioning whether divine intervention could occur and comparing his experience with Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, Swan is careful not to rush too hastily toward explanations. He stitches his memoir together out of journal entries, passages from medical records and flashbacks as he lets the events speak for themselves, though he often includes associative metaphors or other tidbits to broaden his struggle’s context. Some of these inclusions feel like perfect interpolations, such as his invocation of the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion reassembling the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz; others seem barely relevant, such as details about mad cow disease and the problems it created with blood donation. Still, Swan’s most powerful writing occurs in his clear articulation of the state he entered as he died, and the memoir would suffer if it were to lose its Melville-ian ephemera, since the details aboutbiology, the epigraphs and the clips of medical records all provide exciting stylistic shifts against some of the work’s drier biographical details. Despite a lack of focus, these deeply human evocations never succumb to emotional or supernatural melodrama as they detail Swan’s brief afterlife and his grappling with death and its aftermath.
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)