Every Night’s a Saturday Night by Bobby Keys (Book Review)

Every Night's A Saturday Night: The Rock 'n' Roll Life of Legendary Sax Man Bobby KeysEvery Night’s A Saturday Night: The Rock ‘n’ Roll Life of Legendary Sax Man Bobby Keys by Bobby Keys

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Bookshelves: americana, memoir, party-like-a-rock-star, non-fiction

Don’t expect any deep insights, but this is still a very enjoyable read, the story of a rock and roll life peopled by everybody who was anybody in the heyday of rock n roll, the British Invasion, and beyond. Awesome stories, like first meeting Keith Moon as he was chasing his chauffeur with a hovercraft. Phil Spector is a prick – who knew? Hook a drive into Keith Richards’ breakfast as he eats by the fairway, and he will shoot your golf ball – who knew? There are some substance-hazed lapses in memory, like his estimation of how long he lived with George Harrison: “…a month or so. Several weeks anyway, probably a month. More than a week, less than a year.” It’s okay, though, because the entire book reads like it was dictated and transcribed, so you get Bobby Keys himself, like you’re sitting around drinking beers and shooting the shit, an utterly conversational voice that brings everything to life.

Keys pulls off being self-effacing, acknowledging that his success was due in large part to being in the right place at the right time over and over again, while at the same time being able to blow his own horn – heh – for his accomplishments. And you only have to listen to the Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar” or “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” or John Lennon’s “Whatever Gets You Through the Night” to know the man had a gift. A ten-year-old kid happened to hear Buddy Holly playing on the back of a cotton truck in Lubbock, Texas, and the saxophone was the only instrument left at school when he wanted to learn to play something, anything, just to be a part of that music, and — something wonderful happened.

I felt a bit let down at the lack of deep feeling beyond that which Bobby clearly had for the music. He refers more than once to “my wife at the time” or “my kid” but goes no further into those personal relationships, and talks about being a heroin-infused mess but offers no real insight. Just, he was a junkie for a while, and now he’s not. I suppose I can understand the desire for privacy but it did leave me wanting more. Still, fair enough. This book is about the music, and making the music, and high times that were had while making the music. It’s a rollicking tale of a rollicking life that’s got one hell of a soundtrack, from his earliest solos on Dion and Elvis recordings through his career with the Stones and beyond.

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Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta (Book Review)

Mrs. FletcherMrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Grabbed this from the library’s impulse display; no holds, no waits. This is a new author for me.

Light and amusing but still meaningful treatment of empty-nest syndrome, emerging adulthood, and exploration of sexuality including LGBTQ with heavy focus on the T, life as a MILF, consent, misogyny, porn, hooking up, respect. Really, for all the boxes this book ticks off, it does a good job, even if a couple of the story threads seem to kind of trail off when everything’s wrapped up. I kept hearing “Stacy’s Mom” in my head as I read.

Competently written page-turner; a great airplane read even if I wasn’t on an airplane. Perhaps I’ll grab another Tom Perrotta book for my flight next week.

Bookshelves: hot-off-the-press, suburbia, satire, chick-lit, coming-of-age, lgbt-inclusion, fluff, social-commentary, women, too-sexy-for-my-mom, rom-com, reading-in-airports, popular-fiction

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Digital Fortress by Dan Brown (Book Review)

mDigital FortressDigital Fortress by Dan Brown

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I am not throwing the book into the wall because it does not belong to me–and neither does the wall, since I rent. 😦

Bookshelves: just-really-really-horribly-bad, everyone-loved-it-but-me, bloody-awful, was-the-editor-drunk, intrigue, thriller, popular-fiction, mary-sue-and-gary-stu, bad-dialogue, abandoned, purple-prose

Up until now I’ve defended Dan Brown against the Dan Brown haters. Up until now I hadn’t tried to read Digital Fortress.

The characters are cardboard-perfect-cliched and I can’t suspend my disbelief enough to buy that the NSA, for Pete’s sake, has no resources other than an untrained college professor to find the ring that will save the world. “I’m a teacher, not a damned secret agent!” He really says that. This was when David Becker assumed the appearance of Bones McCoy in my mind’s eye although he’s really an alternate-universe incarnation of Robert Langdon, minus the Mickey Mouse watch and the fell-down-the-well incident, and I became even less able to take him seriously than I already was, which wasn’t much. Mostly, though I cannot take the brilliant and beautiful Susan Fletcher being referred to as the brilliant and beautiful Susan Fletcher every single time the brilliant and beautiful Susan Fletcher does something or every time the brilliant and beautiful Susan Fletcher says something and every time someone thinks about the brilliant and beautiful Susan Fletcher or talks to the brilliant and beautiful Susan Fletcher and fantasizes about just bending the brilliant and beautiful Susan Fletcher over the desk and having a go. Barf.

I enjoyed The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons, found The Lost Symbol to be so-so, did not even make it a quarter of the way into Inferno. The premise of Digital Fortress was awesome but the writing didn’t come close to doing it justice. It is physically impossible for me to endure an entire book’s worth of this drivel, and I am done with Dan Brown.

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Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser (Book Review)

Sister CarrieSister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Reasons to like this book:

Bump up your classics cred, with what was at the time the “newfangled” realist or naturalist writing style. Read about an immoral woman, one who chose neither the path of hard, respectable work nor respectable marriage, who wasn’t also vilified by her creator even through it wasn’t because she didn’t try or because she lacked good intentions. It’s not her fault she was fired from her grinding sweatshop job after being sick. It’s not her fault the guy she married was already married and took her through a sham ceremony. It is refreshing that Dreiser passes no judgments; indeed, he shows us how reasonable it is for a poor, young woman freezing her way through a Chicago winter to accept the gift of a coat, even a stylish and expensive coat, from a man of means and stature to whom she is not married. It gets even better when, despite her common- law marriage and her avarice, Dreiser does not make her die the lonely and agonizing death, à la Madame Bovary or Lady Dedlock, that was de rigueur for other shameless hussies of literature. Carrie soars above and beyond her perceived sins, achieving wealth and glamour by her own merits, leaving the men who took advantage of her behind her in the dust or the gutter or wherever they happened to land. It’s refreshing.

Another reason to read it: Another victim of both bowdlerization and banning, once by its own publisher. I’m a firm believer in reading banned books.

Reasons to not like this book: I found the writing just a bit ponderous. “Oh, the drag of the culmination of the wearisome. How it delays, – – sapping the heart until it is dry…” is an example. Every little detail of people’s thoughts and deeds is rendered in excruciating detail, and I felt I was wrestling the story from the twists and turns of Dreiser’s rather grandiose writing style.

Upshot: Atypical treatment of an atypical woman for the times, and despite its period (it was published in 1900), it is possible to read it without throwing it against the wall, and even to be entertained. I say, go for it.

Bookshelves: classic, women, literature-with-a-capital-l, banned-and-challenged

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The Book of Ash by Mary Gentle (Book Review)

Ash: A Secret History (Book of Ash, #1-4)Ash: A Secret History by Mary Gentle

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just finished my umpteenth reread of this series and realized I have never reviewed it. Perhaps because it’s simply too much awesome to review. I would give it 37 stars if I could.

This book has it all.

Magic, cleverly disguised as prayer, cleverly disguised as quantum physics.

Fantasy.

Medieval history.

Priests and prophets, saints and miracle-workers, slaves and mercenaries. Historians and archaeologists and physicists. Genetics. Movable realities.

The ruins of a Visigoth Carthage appearing off the North African coast, where countless previous surveys showed nothing. Ancient scholarly manuscripts magically recataloguing themselves in university libraries. A man missing for sixty years mysteriously turning up where he should have been the whole time.

Golem. How freaking cool are GOLEM?

Kickass female characters. Not kickass like being the most beautiful and pulling off the most politically advantageous marriage while having the best sex and wearing the most sumptuous gowns kind of kickass, but the command a mercenary army and wear custom-made Milanese plate armor and have your own warhorse and know how to take somebody’s head off with a poleax kind of kickass.

(Warning: The reality of war is gritty. Ash is a something of a politician but she is no lady, and says “fuck” a lot.)

The ending shatters me every time.

(For those intimidated by 1120-page books that can be used as doorstops, or who have bursitis and don’t want to lug around something big and heavy, my copy of this book is four normal-sized paperbacks: A Secret History, Carthage Ascendant, The Wild Machines, and Lost Burgundy. I love the cover artwork on my copies. All paper-and-glue editions are out of print, but they can be found used online. It’s also available for Kindle.)

Bookshelves: comfort-favorites, sci-fi, fantasy, mysticism, medieval-history, heroine-kicking-ass, action-with-a-body-count, grittiest-reality, this-is-the-stuff-right-here, war, women

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Address Unknown by Kathrine Kressmann Taylor (Reading Challenge Book Review)

Address UnknownAddress Unknown by Kathrine Kressmann Taylor

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow.

I am very picky about short stories, not easily pleased. Every short story I read gets measured against the likes of “The Gift of the Magi” and “The Monkey’s Paw” and “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and they all fail to cut it.

Address Unknown cuts it.

When I included this in my 2017 Reading Challenge (#3, a book of letters) I thought this was an actual book, and that’s how it came to me, a small hard-bound volume not much larger than my phone. I read the whole thing in about thirty minutes.

This is a quick and devastating story, told in the letters exchanged by two friends, business partners in an art dealership, one remaining in America and the other returning to their German homeland in 1932. In their letters back and forth we see the rise of Hitler and the fall of human decency. The betrayal is bone-chilling (“That is why we have pogroms,” said oh-so-matter-of-factly) and the revenge is brutal.

Just read it. And Trumplings, take note.

(I was slightly annoyed by the foreword written by Whit Burnett, editor of Story magazine in which this piece first appeared in 1938, wherein he waxes amazed that such a powerful story was written by a woman. Stuff it, Whit.)

Bookshelves: short-story, world-war-ii, nazi-hate, classic, historical-fiction, schadenfreude, epistolary, plot-twists-and-irony

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American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis (Book Review)

American PsychoAmerican Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Pretty sure I’ve stumbled across another book that was written to impress other writers. This entry in my 2017 reading challenge (#28, a book with an unreliable narrator) proves once again what a lowbrow I am.

I’ve read six chapters of nothing but detailed descriptions of everybody’s designer clothing, and the ridiculously expensive booze they drink and the upscale food they eat, a comparison of high-end business cards that reads disturbingly like a dick-measuring contest, and constant anxiety about not getting a good table at whatever pretentious and overpriced yuppie bistro is the latest cool place to be. That’s it. Four pages of the parade of top-end products that makes up his morning grooming routine and another two pages of all the crap from Hammacher Sclemmer in his kitchen. There seems to be a fixation with videotapes; I’m guessing porn will play a large part later on. Every woman is either a “hardbody” or is not, and they are all interchangeable. He can’t remember one person from the next, always mixing up names and faces, and I can see that as a symptom of the pathology at play here, but he does it with music too and it really really annoyed me when one of the best rock and roll songs of all time, “Be My Baby,” was not properly attributed to the Ronettes. That should have been one of the ones he got right.

The thing is, I think I get it. I’ve heard enough to know it’s about a brilliant young financial wizard on Wall Street in the late eighties who is also a serial killer. This endless blahblahblah of conspicuous consumerism is a clever device, really, the soulless clutter of day-to-day life playing up the soulless rage that comprises the mind and heart of our torturer murderer. But it’s a veritable slog to try to read. …and she’s wearing a wool-crepe skirt and a wool and cashmere velour jacket and draped over her arm is a wool and cashmere velour coat, all by Louis Dell’Olio. High-heeled shoes by Susan Bennis Warren Edwards. Sunglasses by Alain Mikli. Pressed-leather bag from Hermès. This for every single person who enters the narrator’s line of sight, including doormen and cocktail waitresses, this endless haute couture word vomit. It does echo what I imagine to be the greed and shallowness of senseless killing, the young hotshot moving through the world of junk bonds and leveraged buyouts and coke in the men’s room, twenty-six years old and pulling down two hundred grand a year, so why not reach out and take all the Wurlitzer jukeboxes and $850 gazelleskin wallets and deathsack prostitutes you want? I’m picking up desensitization as a gimmick here. Our impeccably dressed killer is a shark in more ways than one, and don’t try to tell me that anyone who aspires to Wall Street isn’t a predator of sorts.

But…it’s boring. This might have worked brilliantly for me as a short story or a novella, but as a full-length novel it is simply tedious. I’m already skimming at page 57; no way am I slogging through 400 pages. Dnf-ing. This might also be one of those times where the movie really is better.

Bookshelves: well-i-tried, writing-with-a-capital-w, pomo, unreliable-narrator, bloody-awful, misogyny-rules, abandoned, gore, horror, satire, dark-humour, literary-fiction, literature-with-a-capital-l, artsy-fartsy, dnf, ugh, reading-challenge

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