Angstridden sex is funny, à la Philip Roth; tongueincheek memoirs are funny, à la David Sedaris. Ames can be their water-boy...




A mildly perverted, mildly humorous compilation of Ames's New York Press columns into one chunky memoir of sexridden angst.

From his young days in a backstraightening corset to the traumas of his delayed adolescence, from encounters with prostitutes (both female and transsexual) to his personal recreation of Mann's Death in Venice, Ames (The Extra Man, 1998) marshals his adventures with his penis for increasingly strained comic effect. Knowing what the word ``onanism'' means does not constitute humor, of course, yet Ames spends many pages trying to convince the reader that he is indeed really, really funny for just this kind of vocabulary (and related experiences). Sex with a prostitute who ends up throwing a cup of hot tea in his face is not so much funny as it is pathetic, despite his cheerful chirps to the contrary. Likewise, his venereal diseases do not contribute to any newly discovered comic territory: the ``w''(art) on his ``p''(enis) may have been of utmost concern to him, but how many times has the embarrassed trip to the drugstore for sexrelated products or treatment already been depicted elsewhere? Oddly, the most amusing parts of Ames's memoirs are the ones not specifically related to his own sex life: the stories of him defecating on himself (both in the south of France and New York City) portray a sense of urgency perhaps only experienced by one with equally explosive bowels, whereas his friend's invention of the ``mangina'' provides the most fruitful exploration into new and dizzying perversions.

Angstridden sex is funny, à la Philip Roth; tongueincheek memoirs are funny, à la David Sedaris. Ames can be their water-boy for now, and maybe he'll join their company when he lets his humor develop organically rather than throwing it into the reader's face.

Pub Date: May 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-609-60514-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2000

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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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An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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