In this debut memoir, Presa reflects on a life that included bulimia, homelessness, military service, motherhood, and complicated love.
The author says she struggled with her weight from a young age and developed crippling social anxiety that kept her from forging friendships. When she discovered bulimia at age 14, it seemed like an answer to her problems: she could continue to find solace in food, she thought, but avoid the weight that caused her to be ostracized. However, the sickness would become a lasting problem in her life, further complicated by the suicide of her mother when she was 15. After the author fled her deteriorating family, her life became a gritty procession of nights in tents, cars, and even caves. The cold and discomfort were still preferable, she says, to staying at her father’s house with her antagonistic stepmother. She impulsively decided to join the Air Force at age 19 after news footage from Hurricane Katrina convinced her to take a more active role in society. At 21, she married a man in the Air Force stationed in South Korea whom she’d known for four months “and had seen in person only a handful of times” and later had a child with him. In the Air Force, she found structure, friendship, and self-esteem, but she still made plenty of mistakes in life. Hurtling from one tenuous situation to the next, she had to discover the strength to save her own life. Overall, Presa is a talented writer, and with her punchy, maximalist prose style, she engulfs the reader in a sea of sharp observations and sardonic humor. For example, she begins her chapter about her Air Force basic-training experience with the line, “Nestled amongst the sobs and moans of misery of others, I smiled.” Unfortunately, though, this same maximalism extends to the excessive length of the memoir; at 588 pages, it’s twice as long as it should have been. Greater concision and more selectivity when choosing among her memories might have made for a better-paced and ultimately more compelling read.
A funny, affecting, but ultimately overlong remembrance of struggle and growth.
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)