In this debut memoir, a fight with pancreatic cancer prompts the author to reflect on life, meditate on mortality, and enumerate the pleasures of company and food.
From the beginning, Grau promises to lighten the account of her cancer battle with a hefty dose of humor. “Laughter over tears,” she writes, “because without the ability to laugh, the urge to surrender would be too strong.” After the tumor was discovered and as the treatment began, she sent cheeky email updates to the members of her community center in Cambria, California, where she taught dance aerobics and weight training. The author sprinkles these emails throughout the book, and though they often take the shortest route to easy gallows humor, it’s enjoyable to read these lively and irreverent missives. Grau sometimes resorts to platitudes like “Hadn’t I heard somewhere that laughter is the best medicine?,” which can derail otherwise well-paced sections. Not all attempts at comedy land, but the depiction of an overenthusiastic local surgeon is as funny as it is unsettling. In another creatively rendered and well-executed passage, the author uses the tasting notes of wine to describe the flavor of her drug regimen. Other parts speak to paranoia and mortality, as when Grau begins connecting various scrapes with death into a single narrative of survival. The author calls herself a “toughie,” her dad’s phrase, and suggests her surviving cancer isn’t unrelated to her growing up in the South Bronx. Grau’s attempts at humor do lighten the mood of the work, even if they fail to distinguish it much from other accounts of cancer battles. But the book doesn’t really aim to break new ground, and though it delivers familiar truisms about cherishing loved ones, savoring the good times, and being grateful for life, it owns up to its treacly spirit. A truism might not be new or interesting—but at least it’s true, and at most a source of comfort to someone who wants it.
An animated story of survival and an exuberant display of how to live well.
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)