Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Crystal Zevon: I'll Sleep When I'm Dead 'The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon'

If you are even remotely interested in rock and roll, Warren Zevon, music, or American Popular Culture over the past half century I'd say this is a good book for you to check out. Warren told Crystal Zevon before he died that if she was going to write this book there was only one demand he had to make: "Put it all in there. Don't sugar coat it or try to make me look better. Tell them everything and exactly who I am."(Quotes are included here to show that it's Warren speaking, but this is actually completely paraphrased by the midge) The best part about this book is that it is actually transcriptions of interviews from all the major role players in Warren's life from his ex-wife Crystal, to guitarist Waddy "Wah-Wah" Wachtel, Jorge Calderon-Warren's co-writer, producer, and friend, his gamblin' man father, his children, his cousins,Bruce Springstein, Billy Bob Thornton, Tom Waits, and even notes from his own journals. These are not just put in there randomly, however, they are chopped up and put together to create a narrative that flows quites seamlessly as if written by one storyteller. This is truly a gem. I know I always write reviews of books I love on here, but you'll see the stark differences between my reactions to this book and the biography of Tom Waits that I read once I post something on that bad boy. This is one of two books that I read based on reading or hearing a recommendation on the book from Ben Harper (the other was Leonard Peltier's "My Life is My Sundance," which is a moving piece written by a wrongly imprisoned native American who to this day uses his spirituality to rise above the hell of a life he is forced to live inside a cell) Both books are worthy of your time in my opinion, but I suppose that's obvious. Back to the book at hand.....This Zevon book is really a special one and documents everything from Warren's meeting Igor Stravinsky as a child piano prodigy to his long friendship with and many stints on TV with David Letterman, right up to being diagnosed with cancer, recording the wind, and dying far too young. The book also has a guide in the back to explain a little bit about all of the interviewed contributors and their roles in Zevon's life. The guy was a freak of nature, an enigma, a genius, and often an asshole, you gotta read for yourself if you care to know. It doesn't disappoint.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

New Posts in the Works

It has been so impossible to post new book reviews lately. I have made a conscious effort to start blogging again when I can and hope to have some new thoughts on the many books I've read since I last posted....they include I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon; Crystal Zevon Low Side of the Road: A Life of Tom Waits; Barny Hoskyns 11/22/63; Stephen King The Four Agreements; Don Miguel Angel Ruiz Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire Vol. 1; George R.R. Martin A Clash of Kings: A Song of Ice and Fire Vol. 2; George R.R. Martin A Storm of Swords: A Song of Ice and Fire Vol. 3; George R.R. Martin A Feast of Crows: A Song of Ice and Fire Vol. 4; George R.R. Martin That's about as much as I currently can think of...I've also read the last few Michael Connely books, as always, and look forward to the new Bosch novel coming out soon. I'm currently finishing up A Dance with Dragons; A Song of Ice and Fire Vol. 5, which will have me caught up with Martin's currently released novels in the series. The Midget has been a super fun project that started out as a New Year's resolution a few years back and I hope to make it sing once more....for those millions out there who still truly care and are deeply saddened by it's hiatus. Thanks.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Source Michael Connelly - LA Times Magazine

The Source Michael Connelly - LA Times Magazine

Michael Connelly writes about the experience of handing over his novel, The Lincoln Lawyer, and having it adapted into a movie by other artists. I went and saw it despite the fact that I once again went against the description of this blog that I wrote myself right above this post. And... I thought it was a great rendition of the book. I also had high hopes going in because I met Michael Connelly at a book signing a few months ago and heard him tell a similar story to this (article's) first hand. Oh yeah, he also said that the new novel was timed to come out soon after the flick so more to come....The Fifth Witness, in stores April 5th. looks like those Bosch movies might finally get made in the near future, too. Connelly buys Back Bosch and Teams with Yellow Bird (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Full Dark, No Stars: Stephen King

The title says it all. Dark. Stephen King's newest effort is a group of four stories each set in different locations and in different times. The first of the four: 1922 is certainly the darkest. 1922 is the story of a man who fights his wife at all costs to keep her from selling an inheritance of neighboring land to a major slaughterhouse and moving the family to the "big city" of Omaha, Nebraska. In the end the wife is unfaltering in her beliefs and the husband must convince his son that the only option is to do the unthinkable. If I wanted to compare it to someone else's writing the only person who comes to mind is Edgar Allan Poe. Seriously. The kind of slow destruction and following mental breakdown into madness that only a certain few writers have ever attempted or wanted to attempt, and even fewer have succeeded in articulating so masterfully. I was admittedly slightly alarmed to continue at this point. The second novella Big Driver was a completely different tale, but at least had more of the Hollywood bright spots you might hope for when pure blackness is the overall theme and title of your literary quest. King tells of an author suddenly marooned on the trip home from a reading and signing event in a nearby town. A theme not to far  removed from King's Misery (1987), but here we have a female protagonist who falls victim to a red-neck tow truck driver's plot to capture unsuspecting woman taking the short cut through the back roads. Fair Extensions was the least impressive and shortest of the four, which was set in a town the author admits is quite similar to where he lives. Dave Streeter is dying of cancer and makes a shady deal with a roadside vender at twilight to have his life extended in exchange for a percentage of his salary during these gifted remaining years. Dave must also search his soul for one person whom he hates so that our vendor might even the scales of the world so to speak. The story is sad and twisted and even funny at times, but begins to read like a grocery list and leaves the reader with a knot in the gut that is not justified by any type of brilliant prose or masterful turn of plot. Finally, the last story, A Good Marriage, is the best and is based on a true event in the news that King felt he must write about. In this last novella, Darcy, a loving and devoted wife stumbles across a mysterious box in her husband's immaculate garage while looking for batteries for the television remote when her husband is out of town on business. Let's just say she takes a trip down the rabbit hole, but luckily this one also has some light at the end of the tunnel so that the reader is left perhaps a little screwed up, but still rewarded for their efforts. All in all, the novel is extremely well crafted and the positives in the three brilliant stories far outweigh the negatives of Fair Extensions. The worst of the four is not a total loss, either. There are some great turns of phrase and the character of the devil in the form of a strange roadside vendor is fantastic. I just felt that the ending left more to be desired. I would recommend this book to any fan of King's past work the genre of horror/psychological thrillers and mystery/crime novels. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Phil Lesh: Searching for The Sound: My Life with the Grateful Dead

Phil Lesh's autobiography is certainly a book with extreme cult popularity much like the Grateful Dead themselves. I had heard good things from members of groups I perform with; most notably the bass player (duh) from Spidergawd, a Los Angeles based jam-band- named after the spacey Garcia improvisational track from his 1972 solo debut "Garcia"- that specializes in playing many Dead tunes along with other classic rock, country, funk, bluegrass, etc. , and original music in similar veins. I have seen multiple documentaries on the Dead including "From Anthem to Beauty," "The Grateful Dead Movie," "Grateful Dawg," and the BBC documentary "Can't take it with You," on the debacle and litigation involving Jerry Garcia's estate after he passed in 1995, but this was the first tell all I'd read. Phil Lesh is certainly one of the most important voices on the Grateful Dead that survive today. Sure, I'd be just as happy to hear Billy the K's take or Bobby's, and I'd be very interested in Robert Hunter's, but Phil is the member of the band who has fought the hardest to keep the music alive all of this time. A main organizer of The Other Ones, Phil Lesh and Friends, The Dead, and now Furthur, Lesh has championed the Weir song title turned mantra that "The Music Never Stopped." The background on Lesh's musical beginnings and the slow formation and reformation of the band which would eventually become The Grateful Dead is intriguing to say the least and by the time we get to Jerry's death and the infinite sadness, fighting, and struggle that would occur post I was ready to start over and get back to the happy times. Recommended to Dead Heads, bass players, sound engineers, and roots music lovers.

The Reversal: Michael Connelly

The new Connelly is about as good as they've been in the past eighteen years, I'd say. As mentioned on the many other reviews on this blog I have read a number of these somewhere in the teens. This new one has both of his recently prominent main characters and also a background cast of many of the players from the entire catalogue of the author. Terry McCaleb and some other crew members from Blood Work and The Poet are among the very few left out, I'll leave it at that. Some new developments have arisen after 9 Dragons, which was one of the very first novels spoken of on this blog and was read during December of last year along with four or five other books and helped me to decide upon this mission/new year's resolution to read more. I suppose I should say "Spoiler Alert!" if you do read Connelly and haven't digested that one yet. Mainly, Bosch is now a single dad raising his daughter here in Los Angeles after the loss of his wife in Tokyo during the madness of that last chapter, which saw Bosch fighting crime in a new country for the first time. The Reversal, refers to this theme of 180 degree change in Bosch's life as well as to the role of Mickey Haller, his long lost half brother from The Lincoln Lawyer, and other novels, who crosses the aisle to work with his ex-wife Maggie McPherson for the prosecution. The book changes perspectives back and forth each chapter from Bosch to Haller and burns on at a break-neck pace, which Connelly's readers have come to love and expect. So, if you've ever read any of these I urge you to welcome back your old pals Harry and Mick and have a nice couple of days in Los Angeles. These novels never take longer than that once you've got them started. Happy reading, The Midge.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Grand Design: Steven Hawking

I don't really know what to tell you about this one. It is the newest book published by the greatest astrophysicist, cosmologist, and overall scientist of our time. The more answers we find the more questions arise and we have made some astonishing leaps, but continue to search for more and probably always will. I found it to be certainly worth while and chock-full of information and of the type of terrible jokes you would expect to hear from such a brilliant mind. Read it or don't, I doubt anything I try to explain would sway you either way on this one. I will tell you that he delves into and explains the entire history and progression of modern science and the theories of important scientists and mathematicians dating back to Pythagoras, Galileo, and Einstein, and the theories of Alchemy, Relativity, Super String, and most newly and notably M-Theory. He also discusses experiments, models, theories, and possibilities of other universes, dimensions, and the ongoing search for the "Unified theory of everything," (as Jeff Tweedy sings) which has been carried out through the ages and continues still. Wrap your head around this one if you can. I tried and think maybe ten more readings would help...or would they.....