In this debut graphic memoir, a woman looks back on growing up with five siblings, her often overwhelmed mother, and a mostly absent father who was both charming and pathological.
The “Mousehouse” of the title refers to the family’s tiny, 700-square-foot house that reminded Haney’s mother, Meg, of a children’s book. They lived there for seven years, but the memoir actually stretches from 1919 to 1966, interspersed with present-day sections in which Haney converses with her dying mother; for Haney, this book is her eulogy. Her line drawings are crude, similar to children’s work or to cartoonists like Lynda Barry—effective and appropriate given the child’s-eye view. Pleasingly scrapbooklike family photographs, newspaper articles, advertisements and letters help tell the story. The beginning sections that delve into family history are revealing, especially those about Haney’s father, Billy, and how he came to be such a selfish, charming, extravagant, risk-taking, sex-obsessed narcissist. As the family grows and Meg tries to find independence, the children are often left to fend for themselves, with their father swooping in now and then with presents and treats. Haney’s writing skillfully balances tone, employing wry humor and dry commentary to talk about darker happenings, including what might be seen today as child neglect, as when Meg charges 7-year-old Gus with being man of the house, having him go to the bank, mail letters and go grocery shopping. But there’s more: Billy gets Haney a subscription to Playboy—for her 11th birthday. And it gets worse. Haney doesn’t dwell on these incidents, feeling that people are tired of incest memoirs and not wanting “Dad’s slimy stuff to take over.” Haney is honest about conflicts with her mother and generous in imagining Meg’s point of view, derived from letters and journals as well as memory. Her five siblings are also given their dues. Hopefully, we’ll see more from this talented writer/cartoonist.
Engrossing, sensitive and humorous—a bighearted winner.
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)