A thoughtful and inspiring but idiosyncratic reflection on a shiftless youth that may not command a broad readership.

LEARNING THE HARD WAY

A writer remembers a troubled youth haunted by a violent father and the premature death of his mother. 

Cera (A Collection of Outdoor Tales, 2012, etc.) was “not a very well-liked child”; in fact, he didn’t particularly like himself. He was an impetuous boy inclined to court disaster or at least to follow his friends in its direction. As the title of his memoir suggests, he tended to learn only from the consequences of his rashness. His toughest years, he recalls, spanned from elementary school through high school—after his mother, Mary, left his father, Dante, the author was left to contend with his “volatile temper” and his “dark, disturbing side.” Cera eventually moved in with his mother, but found the living arrangement emotionally unmanageable after she became afflicted with cancer, a disease that ultimately took her life. With admirable candor, the author movingly reflects on the shame he felt over his abandonment: “I hated myself as I felt the searing metal hand grab my heart and twist it, but I knew I could not stay with her.” He moved back in with his father and faced the hysterical contempt of his stepmother, Miriam, and the savage beatings his father made her endure. Cera’s book is structured as a series of vignettes, slices of personal history that poignantly paint a picture of youthful struggle and disappointment as well as their ramifications on his early adulthood, including a marriage that failed painfully. The author’s account is deeply confessional: Intimately openhanded, he never spares himself from criticism. And while the tone can be darkly melancholic, this book isn’t a lugubrious lament. In fact, Cera celebrates the life he eventually crafted for himself, including a happy marriage and the hard-earned wisdom that made such self-improvement possible. But this is an intensely idiosyncratic tale, and it’s not obvious that it will appeal widely beyond the sphere of the author’s loved ones. And while the remembrance can be emotionally powerful, it’s written in plain, poetically unadorned prose. 

A thoughtful and inspiring but idiosyncratic reflection on a shiftless youth that may not command a broad readership.

Pub Date: Dec. 28, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-9848250-3-5

Page Count: 170

Publisher: Libra Books Inc.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2019

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

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").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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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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