A woman tells of an unstable childhood, an abusive marriage, and years of emotional recovery in this debut memoir.
Aiken-Hall writes that she was born into chaos: as her mother, Wendy, gave birth to her in 1981, police escorted her unstable father, Ralph, from the hospital for harassing a nurse. Due to severe depression, alcohol use, and affairs with cruel men, Aiken-Hall says, her mother couldn’t provide a stable home, and it fell to the author’s maternal grandmother, known as “Gram,” to provide love and comfort. Wendy and Ralph soon resumed their relationship after Aiken-Hall’s birth, she says, but the two split again after Wendy had an affair and Ralph threatened to murder the whole family. The author writes that Wendy then moved in with a new partner who molested her while her mother watched; Ralph, already ill from paranoid schizophrenia and a genetic disorder, died after a construction-related accident. Aiken-Hall struggled with feelings of shame, confusion, and grief, which she says were only endurable due to Gram’s much-needed unconditional love. After a string of failed teenage romances and an emotional affair with a co-worker, Aiken-Hall says that she became ensnared by an abusive man who coerced her into sex and demanded her hand in marriage after she became pregnant. Aiken-Hall had three children with him and weathered the loss of Gram while gradually moving toward change and healing. Aiken-Hall’s insights in this memoir can be striking at times; she writes movingly, for instance, about how she returned to abusive situations because she’d always craved affection, and about her terrifying youthful realization that Gram would inevitably die, depriving her of her only source of love. But readers may wish that there were deeper reflections about her relationships with specific family members. Most prominently, Aiken-Hall’s mother, despite being mentioned in the book’s title, remains an elusive and mostly undefined figure, beyond her parenting failures. As a result, a climactic moment when the author forgives her mother lacks impact.
A memoir of a grueling upbringing captures the author’s misery and hope but might have benefited from more robust examinations of key relationships.
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)