Well-told tales from the operating room by a thoughtful, almost humble neurosurgeon. Rule one of neurosurgery, ``You ain't never the same when the air hits your brain,'' appears to have a corollary: You ain't never the same once you've held a human life in your hands. Vertosick describes his evolution from apprehensive third-year medical student on a six-week neurosurgery rotation to competent chief resident of neurological surgery and finally to practicing neurosurgeon. The landmarks on that journey are patients—those who were helped and those who were harmed. Although liberties have been taken to conceal identities of both patients and colleagues, and some accounts have been partly fictionalized, the aura of truth still clings to them. The operating room stories are taut and graphic. Some accounts, such as the one in which a drill designed to cut only through the skull penetrates the unlucky patient's cerebellum and the one in which a slip of the knife does terrible damage to a young man's brain, are virtual horror stories. Vertosick says he is writing about the ordinary; if so, anyone facing brain surgery must hope for the extraordinary, for happy endings are not the rule here. Babies, young mothers, athletes, old men—all are vulnerable to genetic defects, accidents, aneurysms, or tumors that no surgery can correct. Sometimes a life is saved or a person is returned to wholeness, providing the author with the gratification that keeps him in his demanding profession. Writing with humor and compassion, but without sentimentality, Vertosick shows us that neurosurgeons, those gods of the operating room, are humans, too. His book can be tough reading for those who prefer to keep their illusions intact.
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)