Performance artist Shaffer vividly records meaningful encounters with the locals during her yearlong jaunt across Africa—but remains obtuse about the reality of their lives.
In the early 1990s, when the disastrous impact of AIDS on sub-Saharan Africa was not as apparent, perhaps the author’s search for happiness and personal validation didn’t seem so self-centered. Debating whether she should marry boyfriend Michael back in California, Shaffer decided to do volunteer work and travel in West and East Africa. After a brief visit with a friend’s family in Morocco, she flew to Abidjan, Ivory Coast, only to be irritated by the squalor and the inhabitants’ assertiveness. So off she went by car with some Italians to Accra in Ghana. She befriended other whites seeking an African experience, and they volunteered to build schools in villages. The work never seemed to get finished before the volunteers moved on, but accomplishing goals was not as important as experiencing the authentic Africa. So Tanya and such friends as Dutch Hannah and British Kate spent time with the locals: Minessi resented her visitor’s insistence that her baby be treated at a hospital, even though Shaffer paid; Christy followed them everywhere, examined their belongings, and taped readings from Shaffer’s private journals; and two ambitious Ashanti students, Bengo and Kojo argued politics with her from a surprisingly conservative position, though she suspected they were gay. Shaffer moved on to Burkina Faso, where she observed her African hostess mistreating the young servants, and took a motorized canoe in Mali to visit Timbuktu, where she pondered the value of brief but transforming encounters with fellow travelers. Then she was off to East Africa, where she contracted malaria. Almost ready to come home, she called Michael, but he wanted her back immediately, and Shaffer couldn’t promise that—there was still Lamu to visit, where she might discover an important nugget of wisdom.
Travel as spiritual therapy for white people: a genre that ought to be passé.
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)