A gripping account of a frightening event and its ramifications.




In this debut memoir, a retired high school teacher recounts a horrific mountain lion attack and its aftermath.

On March 23, 1986, Mattern was in Casper’s Park in California with her husband, Don, and their two young children. Suddenly, the author saw what looked like a “large tan dog” running toward her daughter, Laura, who was looking for tadpoles in a stream. Before Mattern realized it was a mountain lion, it had bitten Laura’s head and dragged her away. The lion finally left the girl and ran off; the child survived, but in the coming months, she underwent multiple surgeries to repair her skull and eye. A neurosurgeon said that Laura’s injuries were the worst he’d ever seen. Mattern’s memoir gives a vivid, day-by-day report of Laura’s early recovery, conveying an impressive amount of detail about her condition. The author also devotes a large section to the family’s negligence suit against Orange County, which started after Don heard from a park ranger, “We’ve been having a lot of trouble with that mountain lion lately.” An anonymous source told the author that the county had recently voted to continue its deer-hunting policy despite warnings that mountain lions weren’t getting enough to eat and thus might come after people. The case came to trial in 1991, and Laura’s family was awarded more than $2 million. The use of the present tense throughout the book makes the events feel current even though they all occurred more than a quarter-century ago. Alongside the author’s concern for her daughter, she offers a poignant record of her loss of faith; she’d been a nun for six years before leaving the convent and meeting her husband, but Laura’s attack led her to question whether there was a God in control. A 1991 Easter vigil, she says, marked the beginning of her “step into the darkness of unbelief,” she says, and she now considers herself an atheist. In a well-chosen epilogue, set in 2002, Laura reassures her mother she wouldn’t undo the attack if she could, as it formed her character and brought their family closer.

A gripping account of a frightening event and its ramifications.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5331-1745-8

Page Count: 322

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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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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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.


A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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