Journalist Downs dedicates a trip around the world to her dying mother.
In 2010, newly married and having just quit a 10-year job as a reporter in Palm Springs, the author took a relatively low-budget trip to places her mother, who was suffering the late stages of Alzheimer's disease, had always wanted to see and others that were on her own bucket list. The first couple weeks were a sort of honeymoon, with Downs and her husband, Jason, staying in Peru at a freezing-cold hostel, facing dangers while climbing the Inca Trail, and getting attacked by mosquitoes in the Amazon rainforest. Then Jason returned to work, leaving Downs to make her way through South America, Africa, and Asia, sometimes on her own and other times with companions she met along the way—and often without internet or phone access to communicate with her family and friends. She often paid for her food and lodging by volunteering or working, sometimes teaching English and one time working as a DJ playing American country music in Uganda. When her mother died, Downs was staying at a yoga retreat in Egypt. “Word of my mother’s death,” she writes, “spreads quickly through the dozen or so long-term residents, and they rush to take on some of my pain.” She returned home for the funeral and then set off again. At multiple points, the author seems to be trying to assure herself that her travel is truly for her mother and not a form of escape. Recounting a whitewater rafting trip on the Nile, she writes, “I knew she would take chances if she had the opportunity. I have to do this, because she cannot.” Downs has a fluid, conversational writing style, zooming in to particular anecdotes that illuminate her experience rather than trying to cover the entire year. While the segments devoted to her mother and her disease are integrated rather awkwardly into the narrative, the travel sections are compelling and lively.
A poignant tale of connection and disconnection through travel.
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)