Archive for October 10th, 2010

October 10, 2010

Hellfire: Nick Tosches

by Matt

Hands down, the greatest rock biography ever written. Unlike so many other books about musicians (maybe all of the others?) Tosches manages, with the way he writes, to capture the non-stop energy of his subject, Jerry Lee Lewis, who veers dangerously like a character from the old testament between the devil, portrayed here by the boogie woogie of the piano that Lewis is born to play, and the calling of the church that Lewis pushes away by playing the devil’s music that people beg to hear him play. Eventually he disappears on the country scene where he purges his guilt and for a while it seems he has found salvation but then he becomes an even bigger star and his downfall begins all over again. The book begins outside Gracelands at 3 in the morning. Jerry Lee has a gun and he wants to see Elvis. “You just tell him the Killer’s here!” he tells the security guard. Elvis’s response, from the bed which by now was his home, is to tell his men to call the cops. Unlike other rock biographies you don’t have to be interested in the subject to be affected by this story. A passing interest in life will suffice.

October 10, 2010

Homicide/The Corner: David Simon

by Matt

Despite the title fonts which suggest otherwise, this book, written prior to the TV show The Wire (which Simon is a co creator of) these books stand up on their own as a 360 degree portrayal of today’s American inner city, as vivid in its attention to the minute details of society  as Tolstoy was in his day. ‘Homicide’ is written from the point of view of the detectives, ‘The Corner’ from those who etch out their meagre livings on the corner. If these were novels they would be described, together, in their scope, attention to vocabulary, themes, as one of the great post 9-11 novel to rival Franzen etc, but, instead, you’ll find them in the ‘True Crime’ section along with the Myra Hindley biographies.

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October 10, 2010

Twenty-One Locks: Laura Barton

by Matt

Young woman working behind a make up counter in a small department store in an anonymous Northern town, engaged to be married to her first love meets mysterious stranger baring exotic  tales of down south. Does she or doesn’t she? In the tradition of the great Northern coming of age novels such as ‘Saturday Night, Sunday Morning’, ‘Kestrel for a Knave’ and ‘Billy Liar’ Laura Barton’s debut captures the atmosphere of north-west satellite towns with a deft feminine touch (and without mentioning Donk once, the prevalent sound listened to by young people in these places) punctuated by poetry. NB: Ignore the cover, it’s truly terrible, has little to do with what is contained apart from the title, and I would gladly tell whoever designed it this.

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October 10, 2010

The Once & Future King: T H White

by Andy

The greatest book you will never read, whether it be for the truly awful cover, the wealth of undeserved Disney connotations or the misapprehension that it’s just not for grown-ups.   A truly fabulous, breath-taking, sphincter-tighteningly thrilling read.

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October 10, 2010

Dirk Gently Omnibus: Douglas Adams

by Andy

Renowned and revered (and rightly so) for The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, the two Dirk Gently novels are just as awesome, if not more so.  With impossible sofas, murderous electric monks, Samuel Coleridge and the Asgardian deities, these are packed tight with Adam’s typical irreverence, black humour and imaginative flair but with a slightly darker outlook and lashings of mind-bending oddness.

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October 10, 2010

Kill Your Friends: John Niven

by Andy

A nineties Britpop American Psycho; wonderfully dark, gloriously crude, and revels in making you laugh when perhaps you ought not to.

October 10, 2010

A Man on the Moon: Andrew Chaikin

by Andy

A comprehensive history of the Apollo Programme that does real justice to the incredible achievements made, a decade that was so much more than Neil Armstrong and the infamous Apollo 13.  Focussing on the people and politics that went into the missions and constructed largely from interviews with the men involved, its simple structure is the best platform for an amazing tale of genuine wonder and real determination.

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October 10, 2010

Couples: John Updike

by Andy

Adultery in 60s New England has probably never been so beautifully evoked.  Updike’s biggest strength is his characterisation; switching the narrative between a variety of apparently selfish, opposing characters and yet rendering each and every one of them sympathetic and understandable.  A complex but engrossing novel, and perhaps one of his best.

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October 10, 2010

The Forsyte Saga: John Galsworthy

by Andy

Long, sprawling and intimidating though this may appear, it is a truly stunning work of fiction thoroughly deserving its classic status and so ridiculously exciting (honestly) I wish I’d never read it so I could discover it all over again.

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