This chronicle of freelance journalist Snowden's year in the trenches of America's work force could well serve as a textbook for Modern American Culture 101. Snowden worked as a heavy-metal roadie, an ad copywriter, a substitute math teacher, a Las Vegas cocktail waitress, a Hollywood publicist, a suburban housewife (filling in for a Connecticut matron who took two weeks off), a stripper, a rape counselor, and a molder in a chocolate factory. She gained unusual job skills, like how to sleep in her clothes as a roadie to avoid having to change on a bus; how to mask her limited knowledge of algebra by teaching students the intricacies of restaurant tipping instead; and how to achieve the best hair removal on her bikini line. Beyond these tidbits, Snowden found occupational microcultures with rigid dress codes, rituals, traditions, and hierarchies all their own. With an amateur anthropologist's eye and a large measure of good humor, Snowden confirms and contradicts stereotypes of life in America's offices, casinos, factories, and suburbia. Her fellow ad writers did dream up their toothpaste ads playing Nerf basketball, just like on thirtysomething; playing mom—which each week included doing nine loads of laundry and buying 13 gallons of milk and orange juice, though she was exempt from marital-bed duties—was by far the hardest job, since it had no quitting time. But who would have thought that heavy-metal roadies golf or bowl on their days off or that cocktail waitresses in Las Vegas must join a union, be tested for TB, take an alcohol management class, and have 60 strands of hair cut from their head for DNA testing? While Snowden presents vivid portraits of her jobs, it is not until the epilogue that she explains how she got them, and the absence of any overall conclusions about the American workplace is a drawback. This testament to how deeply jobs shape workers' lives is as invaluable a cultural document as Susan Orleans's Saturday Night. (Photos, not seen) (First serial to Esquire)
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)