In a well-crafted debut memoir of youth, Ordick chronicles life’s twists and preoccupations in self-deprecating style.
Born in 1937 in Chicago, Ordick has impressively vivid memories of his first 25 years of life. “I don’t remember the womb,” he begins, but he seems to remember everything else: being cared for, as a toddler, by his grandparents in the apartment above their florist shop; confusing the dog for his sister; and terrorizing the babysitter. He was a clown but also perennially attracted to violence—which leads him to question how much of personality is innate and how God could possibly control human nature: “Is there a God who would bring his fantasies to life through us? If it is so, then we cannot control our destiny.” Ordick succeeds at re-creating a child’s perspective and recalling—or inventing—convincing dialogue. The tone is pleasantly jokey, with Groucho Marx–style puns, though Ordick often writes in blunt, choppy sentences that interrupt the narrative flow, such as “Still do have trouble responding.” His stream-of-consciousness musings grow darker after he joins the Navy, though his sarcastic manner is less attractive where it shades into racism or misogyny. Raunchy humor is borderline acceptable—“She was well done. Just the way I liked my burgers”—but Ordick later reveals that he occasionally entertained rape fantasies. As a naval radioman, part-time Texas horseman and aspiring Hollywood actor stuck in dead-end jobs, he met many enticing ladies, but none compared to Little Bird, a Kickapoo who stole his heart (she turned out to be married). The book contains many strong character portraits of friends, colleagues and roommates, and Ordick avoids melodrama when expressing regret at his failures. However, the Job-like refrains, expressing skepticism about God’s presence and benevolence, seem shoehorned in and rarely follow logically from the plot. Any unfortunate or seemingly unjust incident leads him into religious speculation. For instance, after his report of putting an injured dog out of its misery, he asks, “[H]ow could a glorious and holy God tell of his mercy, then be so indifferent?” The laundry list title and New Age cover could use a rethink, too.
A peculiar but good-natured account of a varied, adventurous life, derailed at times by a theological obsession.
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").