These essays can stand alone, but they cohere as a slim memoir of a young American family’s years of danger in the Middle East.
There have been plenty of better memoirs from war correspondents, but what distinguishes this is its perspective from the sidelines—specifically, the gender reversal, underscored often, as Los Angeles Review of Books contributor Deuel is the husband of Kelly McEvers, NPR’s Baghdad bureau chief through much of the narrative. This job often caused her to be separated from the author and their young daughter. Both journalists like living on the edge, flirting (or more) with danger, asking the existential question, “What’s the point of being safe if you don’t feel fully alive?” One point might be the addition of their daughter, who added a complication, as “the swashbuckling couple who had never shied away from doing anything insane…were about to bring a new baby into this world.” And the world into which she was born was one of car bombs, shooting in the streets, internal and external warfare, and temperatures that could exceed 120 degrees. Amid the death and carnage, the daughter whom Deuel loves was somehow a threat to his masculinity: “Among other problems, it was difficult to be a man, changing diapers, while Kelly swashbuckled her way across Mesopotamia….For Kelly, the Middle East was the big leagues. For me, it was a place to find a good doctor and maybe some daycare. Alone on a Friday night, I’d pour myself another glass and wonder: What could I do? One thing I couldn’t ever do in good taste was complain too much. After all, actual Iraqis had it much worse than I did.” The question, then, is how much complaining is too much?
The author’s honesty and his self-absorption are two sides of the coin.
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)
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").