A deeply disturbing memoir of childhood in postrevolution Shanghai. Guanlong Cao grew up in a tiny attic with his parents, two brothers, and sister. They had to live this way because his father, a former landlord, was now, after the Land Revolution, a ``class enemy,'' reduced by law to a perpetual state of desperate poverty and under permanent probation with the local authorities. Cao recounts his growing consciousness of sexuality compellingly, remembering such things as the smell of a much older neighborhood girl and his fascination with his family's picture of the deity Lady Bodhisattva—whose feet, free and unbound, eventually inspire a splendidly rendered wet dream. But most of the memoir is darker than that. Cao's father brutally beats his three sons when they are young. As he ages, he goes crazy, even getting his head stuck between the ceiling and the floor in the corner of the attic; Cao's portrayal of this period is by turns pained and vindictive, detached and empathic. Cao remembers his mother for her nurturing, but her childhood haunts him: When she was seven, her aged grandmother lingered near death for some time. Her uncle eventually sent the little girl in to suffocate the old woman with a pillow; when she couldn't, he cursed her and did it himself. One of Cao's brothers is arrested by the Communists for reasons that never become clear to the family. They are not allowed to visit him, but Cao's mother goes every Sunday to stand outside the prison and call his name, sometimes shouting out some family news. When he is released, they learn that he never heard her; he had been transferred to a different prison two days after his arrest. Cao's descriptions are generous, often haunting, but his language is spare. This is a powerful portrait of political and social repression and intimate pain by a writer willing to boldly engage his own memories.
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)