An ambitious but patchy debut, better in parts than as a whole.


Generational insecurity locks horns with machismo in this hybrid collection of personal journalism and first-person profiles.

Believer and n+1 essayist Russell is a type of millennial George Plimpton: the nerd conquering his fears by plunging into the unknown. “I have come to fetishize opaque brutes,” writes the author, who proceeds to meet some cautionary examples. He visited the annual Gathering of the Juggalos, the subculture of Insane Clown Posse fans—people who “weren’t born into the respectable middle class and didn’t see a path that led there, so they said fuck it.” Russell spent an even scarier amount of time with Tim Friede, who regularly gets bitten by poisonous snakes as he pursues his long-term goal of developing a “Swiss-army immune system.” Another superhuman, hockey legend John Brophy, explained to Russell how he spent a lifetime cracking heads on the ice without losing his own in the process. The author also took a class in gory special effects makeup with Hollywood’s “Sultan of Splatter” Tom Savini. On a remote Australian isle, he met a former marketing executive–turned–modern-day Robinson Crusoe. In between these and other essays, Russell weaves together his own story, focused mainly on growing up with his loudmouth Vietnam vet father, who was constantly trying to beef up the kid’s testosterone (“He thought it was important that I should greet Death as part of my morning routine”). Russell is an observant, skillful and funny writer who draws out the essence of each person he meets, but the framing device—in which each story becomes another chapter in his own process of self-realization—becomes a wearying shtick. Russell himself, staggering between ironic detachment and overt pathos, ultimately becomes a grating witness to his own life.

An ambitious but patchy debut, better in parts than as a whole.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-35230-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



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").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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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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