In Berkun’s (The Year Without Pants, 2013, etc.) new memoir, a broken family in the New York metropolitan area struggles to overcome their limitations.
If there’s a keyword that unlocks Berkun’s portrait of his socially impaired clan, it’s memory. Admittedly, this isn’t an unusual observation for a memoir. Nonetheless, Berkun’s childhood recollection of his mother cleaning out her husband Howard’s car, only to discover “tickets to a movie she’d never seen,” is an affecting image of abandonment and lost innocence. “No one recalls what the movie was,” Berkun writes, “but it’s strangely important to me now.” Throughout this memoir, the 42-year-old author tells of how he’s still haunted by his childhood’s lack of stability or certainty, particularly regarding his parents’ on-again, off-again relationship. Starting at an early age, he says, he was overwhelmed by his father’s imperfections, such as his tendency “to deal privately with his wounds, to put himself first, and to deny and repress the expression of love” toward his wife and children, including the author’s older siblings. Berkun tells of how his father became involved in a second affair at the age of 70, three decades after his initial infidelity, and of how his own sad memories of youth rose again, “like the ghosts of sad creatures that died long ago, haunting me because they want to find peace but can’t.” The author’s prose style is compelling, due in part to his interest in classical mythology and modern popular culture. After explaining that his anger toward his father came from the fact that Howard never made “an attempt to explain himself,” Berkun reminisces about his first exposure to the movie Star Wars (1977) and explores the shared history of the “misunderstood monster” between Darth Vader, Dr. Frankenstein, Greek mythology and Aesop’s fables. As the story of a father who came of age in the 1970s and ’80s, Berkun’s memoir is ideally suited to an audience that’s similarly concerned with the challenges of adulthood and parenthood in the 21st century.
A sobering, lucid memoir about the uncanny, precarious nature of family, masculinity and childhood.
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)