An aging father-in-law comes to stay with life-changing consequences in this memoir by Boerner (The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee, 2016).
When the unexpectedly shrill ringtone of the cellphone belonging to the author’s husband, John, jars the couple’s morning, Boerner knew instinctively that something was wrong. John’s mother, Pauline, had been admitted to the hospital, leaving his 90-year-old father, Gene, alone at home. Boerner suggests to her husband that he drive to Arkansas to collect his father so he can stay at their house in Dallas “for a few days.” Gene’s stay lasts for six weeks, a period in which Boerner, senior vice president of the commercial lending department at a Dallas bank, spends time assisting her father-in-law with his daily needs as John’s only sister looks after the hospitalized Pauline. Gene struggles with the stairs, is frustrated by the way Boerner organizes his pills, accuses Boerner’s son of stealing his wallet, and becomes increasingly confused. However, Boerner, who as a young girl wanted to be a nurse, forms a bond with Gene. She confides in Gene that she would like to write a book someday, to which Gene responds sagely: “someday gets here fast. Before long, we’ll both be nothing but memories.” The memoir hinges on this moment, which inspires Boerner to quit her job and become a writer, but the bulk of the narrative focus is on the sad decline in health of her father-in-law. As proven in her stirring debut novel, Boerner is a thoughtfully descriptive writer: “[Gene] stops counting and takes a forced breath, his exhalation so heavy I imagine wisps of his soul escaping into our home.” However, the tone of this particular offering is so relentlessly melancholic that it makes for a difficult read: “Gene will die because his time on earth has been filled to overflowing…raising children and being kind, and loving one woman to such an extent that he withered without her.” Those caring for an ailing elderly family member will recognize the gamut of emotions expressed in this tender tribute to an inspirational relative—moments of frustration, helplessness, and heartache—but this book will struggle to draw a wider audience because of its depressing nature.
Sharply written but painful and emotionally draining, with few moments of reprieve.
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)