Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Things have been so busy at work lately that I haven't had time to post about I'm With The Band by Pamela Des Barres, which I finished last week. It's an account of the author's time spent as a groupie in the 1960s and '70s, falling in love with rock stars and trying to make her own artistic impact on the world. At first I thought the excerpts from her diary would get annoying fast because of their extreme teenage exuberance (there's only so much of that I can take), but she tempered them with wry adult commentary, so they became sweet and endearing instead. I'm not going to attempt to list all the rock gods she knew or slept with, but it's a who's who roster of a great classic rock station - everyone from Captain Beefheart to Waylon Jennings by way of Mick Jagger and Jimmy Page. Hell, she even dated Woody Allen! I'm a big fan of the music from that era so it's no surprise that I loved the book. I understand she has a couple more books and I will definitely be checking them out.


Monday, November 20, 2006

I read The Death Of Sweet Mister by Daniel Woodrell last week. This one was, if possible, even more messed up than the other two of his I've read. The narrator is a thirteen year old boy named Shug living and working in a graveyard with his mother. His father, a part time thief and full time drug user, stops by every now and then to knock them around or to take Shug out to steal dope from terminal cancer patients so he can get high. A read winner, that one. His mom is the local knockout and usually drunk herself, but she's all he has. Needless to say, tragedy is in the air. While I enjoy Woodrell's writing style, there was a weird tick he did with Shug's voice that bugged me. For instance: "His bed had got rich with pillows but he did use just two, both plumped behind him with the others tossed around the bed." I love the bed getting rich with pillows part, but it's the "did" that's all over the novel and it stood out enough that every single time it forced me to stop and register its presence. Although I found it less annoying toward the end, I never stopped seeing it. Anyway. It's terrific, beautifully written and tragic, and you can't help but feel for Shug who has no one good in his life to counteract the brutality he encounters.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Over the weekend I finished Time Was Soft There by Jeremy Mercer. Mercer was a journalist and author who fled Canada after receiving a death threat and found himself in Paris with no money and no prospects. Which is when he started living at Shakespeare and Company among other itinerant writers. The book is about his time spent living there, the people he encountered, and the history of the modern incarnation of this historic bookstore and of its idiosyncratic owner, George Whitman. George was in his eighties by the time Mercer arrived, but still going strong, charming the ladies, hosting weekly tea parties for customers and residents alike, and making plans for the future. Mercer quickly became George's second in command and through him we see the day to day life of living and working at the bookstore and his struggle to eke out a living. It's a fairly straightforward and unromantic vision of Paris, but he doesn't keep all the magic out. Or maybe that was just me imagining how much fun it would be to live in a bookstore (although preferably without the pervasive smell of cat pee, which Claire tells me is a permanent fixture there).

I was actually hoping for more history on the original Shakespeare and Company bookstore, but I suspect I'll have to find one specifically about the expat literary scene in the 1920's for that. Any suggestions?


Thursday, November 02, 2006

Two down, five to go. That's right, I finally finished In The Shadow Of Young Girls In Flower by Marcel Proust. I've got torn ribbons of post-it notes sticking out of the top and scraps of paper tucked in between the pages with things like, "Corr. to part in Alain's @ finding beauty in own surr." written on them. There are far too many of them to detail here, but some will probably end up over at Involuntary Memory if you're interested.

I was talking to Claire last night and mentioned what an interesting experience it's been, reading Proust. I have never read a book before that, even while it is so completely foreign to my own experience, has brought up so many memories, causing me to feel such a strong connection to it. Even while scoffing at the narrator (or Swann) for suddenly believing themselves in love when faced with the absence of a girl, I remember a similar occurrence in my life and have to grudgingly admit that my scorn for their actions isn't deserved. Or, if it is, then I must also direct it at myself! And this kind of thing happens over and over again. It's rather disconcerting, having your judgments called into question on every other page, but it makes for an enthralling and engaging experience.


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