A man recalls his teenage years working a horrible job in the 1970s in this debut memoir.
“Summer is a romantic season, not one for us poor flatlanders to squander in the cold, bleak upper Midwest,” Scariano writes at the beginning of his mordantly funny and sometimes-moving remembrance. In 1975, the author’s father called in a favor to get Scariano a job in order to teach him the value of a dollar and the virtue of good, honest work. But the author admits that he might have fled the jurisdiction if he’d known that the job involved working at the Marsh Township Sanitary District—a sewage treatment plant that processes “industrial waste and sewage flushed down fifty thousand toilets in the homes and factories of Chicago Heights, Illinois.” The teenage Scariano fails to see the personal-improvement benefit of exposing himself daily to a wide array of toxins and carcinogens. The author tells the story in a series of precisely realized vignettes that vary from raucous, disgusting adventures with his colorful co-workers to surprisingly challenging tales of encountering racism, intolerance and corruption. Other scenes dramatize his first fumbling experiences with drinking and romance, and he presents them with a sweet undertone of nostalgia but never false sentimentality. He fills his memoir with the songs, TV shows and catchphrases of the mid-1970s but also with bittersweet recollections of his earlier self (“I read and read, pedal, run, swim, read, killing time, wanting to get back to school so terrifically”). Even the story’s climax, a frighteningly cinematic scene in which young Scariano is sucked into a sewage tank and nearly drowns, is turned skillfully back toward comedy. Although the era the author describes has now all but vanished, he brings it vividly back to life in these pages.
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)
This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)