Set in midcentury New York City, Starger’s (Wally’s World, 2005, etc.) family memoir describes life with his autistic brother.
The author’s older brother, Melvyn Douglas Starger, was born in 1933 in the Bronx to Jewish, Eastern European parents. Despite initially appearing to be a happy, normal child, Melvyn showed unusual behaviors as he grew, symptoms of what subsequent generations would term autism. Steve Starger, born eight years later, grew up in the shadow of his brother’s otherness and his parents’ inability to handle it, particularly once Melvyn began showing signs of other mental health issues. “Some families,” recalls Starger, “when faced with crippling mental disabilities in a family member, bond together and face their futures in some kind of harmony. Other families fall apart, unable to face the fact of a terrible intruder in their midst. My family went the latter route.” The author wasn’t without issues of his own, a perennial misfit who was similar to his brother in many ways and yet who could only sometimes connect with him in what he terms Melvyn’s “Bizarro World,” borrowing a term from Melvyn’s beloved Superman comics. With this memoir, Starger explores their relationship to each other and to their parents, both as children and young adults, including Starger’s escape from his family into the music and drugs of the 1960s and Melvyn’s eventual full-time institutionalization. Starger, an experienced journalist, vividly details the times and places he inhabited over the course of his life. His depictions of his brother are both sympathetic and cleareyed, resulting in many heartbreaking passages: “Melvyn couldn’t respond to any of it except with an occasional shy smile when someone paid attention to him in a positive, loving way. He stuttered so terribly that it seemed his jaws would crack at the effort to speak.” This peculiar combination of family dysfunction, comic books, 1960s counterculture, and mental health makes for a unique, thoroughly engaging memoir that gets at the tragedy and dignity of our collective isolation from one another.
A finely crafted, affecting memoir of two brothers.
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)