Inconsistent but filled with its share of Ames classics.

THE DOUBLE LIFE IS TWICE AS GOOD

ESSAYS AND FICTION

A grab bag of fact and fiction from Ames (The Alcoholic, 2008, etc.), shot through with his trademark self-loathing.

The author’s journalism proves that hating yourself is a smart strategy when it comes to celebrity profiles. By proudly broadcasting his shortcomings—too insecure, too unhip, too drunk—he not only does the required job of making stars like Lenny Kravitz and Marilyn Manson look good in Spin, but he gets his subjects to voice their own insecurities in ways they likely wouldn’t with more straight-laced reporters. Still, Ames clearly prefers those outside the limelight, and he includes some crisp, funny portraits of subcultures like a goth festival and a club dedicated to corduroy. Sex is his preferred theme, and he earns plenty of comic mileage following hipsters prowling New York’s Meatpacking District, or voicing his own neuroses, sometimes in disarming detail. (One explicit yet wryly tender piece describes his experience attending a class on improving his bedroom technique.) Some of the short stories display a sketched-out, simplistic approach to tenuous sexual connections, and at its most tedious the book includes excerpts from Ames’ college diaries. Two pieces of fiction shine, however. The narrator of “A Walk Home” relates how he was shadowed by muggers while walking to his Brooklyn home, and Ames tartly captures the mess of thoughts shuttling through his mind—race relations, a busted romance, New York parking rules—before his act of self defense. The opening story, “Bored to Death,” which is being adapted as a TV show for HBO, follows an insecure author who decides to sell himself as a private eye on Craigslist. Ames deliberately riffs on classic noir—the hero carries a copy of David Goodis’s Black Friday with him—and the increasingly visceral violence not only makes for a powerful story, it exposes, in an Ames-ian way, how crime stories offer a kind of wish fulfillment for the angst-ridden writer.

Inconsistent but filled with its share of Ames classics.

Pub Date: July 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4391-0233-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2009

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

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

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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON

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)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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