An odd cross between angst-ridden youth memoir and women’s adventure yarn: solipsistic, mildly entertaining.

AVOIDING PRISON AND OTHER NOBLE VACATION GOALS

ADVENTURES IN LOVE AND DANGER

Television writer Dale whips up a lightweight tale of travel and romance in daunting locales.

After a dutiful, dull youth and a disillusioning first job as a corporate newsletter writer, the author concluded, “I had tried life on, but had yet to grow into it. My life had been a triple-A training bra.” Determined to avoid the fate of her joyless middle-aged colleagues at Hughes Aircraft and inspired by her free-spirited parents’ sudden move to a farm in Honduras, she embarked upon a less responsible, more adventurous course. Initial journeys to Lebanon and Cuba whetted her appetite for experience: “After Beirut, everything around me seemed so trivial.” She got more than she bargained for with two Costa Rican romances, the first with Michel, who was arrested for defrauding her and others, the second with Francisco, a luckless Colombian national who was imprisoned due to trumped-up accusations by his estranged wife. Dale impulsively moved to Costa Rica to be near Francisco, only to find his legal situation worsening. After a nine-month struggle, her efforts aided Francisco at trial; they fled Costa Rica for Panama, Colombia, and further complications, including a scary period of destitution, and Francisco’s eventual betrayal. Dale portrays Central America with colorful generalities, captures the luckless milieu of its prisons, and writes sympathetically about the ordinary people she encountered as her journey grew rockier. Like many television writers moving into books, she hews to a style best described as Mass-Cult American: casually chatty, sprinkled with snide asides, vague sex talk, and inevitable pop-culture references. Her determinedly airy, chipper tone ultimately becomes problematic, since she treats everything she experiences and sees, no matter how grave, as material for sitcom-like riffing. She’s also much too focused on her own woes, as witness this characteristic observation upon seeing the Panama Canal: “How easy it must be to be a ship’s captain, I thought to myself.”

An odd cross between angst-ridden youth memoir and women’s adventure yarn: solipsistic, mildly entertaining.

Pub Date: May 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-609-80983-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Three Rivers/Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2003

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

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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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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