A quirkily humorous assemblage of remembrances conveyed zestfully.



A writer recounts his most peculiar experiences working in the hospitality industry. 

Debut author Wallen got a job at a hotel in his early 20s—he needed the money and still considered himself a lover of people. But after years of service, he found his youthful optimism transforming into a “deep seeded misanthropy,” the result of so many encounters with customers who ranged from narcissistically insufferable to outright insane. Most of the stories revolve around hotel guests suffering from a morally significant lack of self-awareness. In one tale, the author remembers that a customer, enraged over the best room rate Wallen could cite, repeatedly screamed: “Ridiculous! Give me a lower rate! Now!” The man only left when threatened with bear mace. Another guest, when he discovered his room wasn’t stocked with as much coffee and shampoo as he would have liked, shrieked: “I am not a commoner!” Other customers transcended eccentricity and flirted with behavior more pathological. A woman dishonestly claimed she was promised a free room, and when denied her demand, angrily asserted: “Excuse me! I went to medical school! I am a doctor! I save lives!” Wallen called the board of health—she encouraged him to—and she was not, in fact, a physician. The stories the author relates cover the spectrum from the predictable (guests having sex in the hot tub) to the dangerous (a man discharging his gun while cleaning it in his room). Wallen writes in a mockingly informal tone, generously sprinkling his prose with expletives and consistently delivering winning punchlines. Each of the tales can be read on its own, which makes the book a breezy experience, but also means one never gets to see the author’s perspective develop—he begins with a heavy dose of cynicism. Still, one can’t help but admire the inventively mischievous ways he handled the most egregiously obnoxious guests; he even convinced a customer lodging a complaint against a co-worker that she died years ago.

A quirkily humorous assemblage of remembrances conveyed zestfully. 

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5462-5142-2

Page Count: 216

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2018

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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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