A compelling account of a dark passage toward an uncertain future.

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A YEAR TO FORGET REMEMBER

The ultimate double whammy—unemployment and cancer—upends a staid life in Albert’s searching memoir.

The author, a psychiatrist, was a medical director at an insurance company, a safe, comfortable career that seemed to have been preordained from childhood. Then he learned that his branch office was closing, leaving him without a job at 60; a few months later, doctors told him he had lymphoma. Albert felt betrayed by a company he had admired—and by the body that he had meticulously cared for with fastidious diets and running marathons. But he was also forced to confront himself: after a life spent picking between good and better options, he now had to face hard choices that made him wonder who he was and what he wanted. The author’s very personal yet iconic memoir opens a window onto two of modern life’s uglier ordeals. As he wrestles with guilt over the impending layoff of his staff, whom he keeps in the dark, per company orders, while busying them with meaningless projects, Albert offers a well-observed, wised-up account of downsizing in a corporate world that seems callously indifferent to the fate of its employees and to its own trumpeted standards of customer service. His battle with cancer is a similarly vivid odyssey through the horrors of high-tech medicine: the painful, humiliating tests; the labyrinthine billing statements that baffle even an insurance executive like him; the horrific side effects of chemotherapy drugs, caustic poisons that doctors hope will kill the cancer cells before they kill him. Albert tells this story with a mordant wit—“I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I want my doctor to ever say, ‘Wow!’ ”—and an engaging, psychologically rich prose style that’s by turns poignant, kvetchy and flat-out scared. The result is an acute portrait of the patient’s curse of forced helplessness—and its remedy in humor and perseverance.

A compelling account of a dark passage toward an uncertain future.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2009

ISBN: 978-1441550682

Page Count: 174

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Nov. 8, 2010

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

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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