One of the thousands inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s “Ask what you can do for your country,” the author recounts his time in Liberia from 1962 to 1964. As a Peace Corps volunteer, debut memoirist Salisbury (The Current Economic Crisis and the Great Depression, 2010, etc.) was sent to Liberia to teach at a public school. Primarily a reproduction of a journal made at the time, his book centers on the daily lives of ordinary villagers and the challenges, problems and rewards of teaching in a developing country. Too few teachers, too little money for equipment and too much political interference by government officials were ongoing challenges. Religious groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses were persecuted, and the author saw members being savagely beaten. Liberian president William Tubman was in reality a dictator revered and feared in equal measure. Under his regime, no student activity went unscrutinized. For example, at the close of the school term, the pupils had to sing the national anthem. On one occasion, the principal interrupted and asked the students if they considered the national anthem to be a joke. He suggested that they remember what happened to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the anthem restarted “with a great deal more vigor” while the author’s stomach “turned over.” Women were treated as property and child bearers, and the gender ratio in classes was about eight boys to one girl. Pregnancies were a common problem. The issues here are heart-wrenching and important, but they’re buried in a morass of detail (is it important to know what time the author arose in the morning?). Editing could have reduced the book’s length by at least half to much better effect. More an exercise in reproducing notes of 50 years ago than an analysis of a country before it became engulfed in civil war.
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)