Thin Line Between Stupid and Clever

Opining on Whatever

Archive for the tag “book review”

Just Another Review-Slash by Slash w/Anthony Bozza

slash biography coverSlash by Slash with Anthony Bozza
Published October 30, 2007

Slash is the autobiography of, well, Slash, written with Anthony Bozza. If you know anything about Slash then you know the highlights of his story: Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver, drugs, sex, Axl Rose. Those are the things you read an autobiography of Slash for and those are the things you receive in large doses. This is not The Beatles Anthology. You will not get an in-depth description of the creative process that surrounded each song on Use Your Illusion II. You’ll find Slash much more in line with Life by Keith Richards. This is a story about dealing with an enigmatic (to say the least) lead singer, drugs, women, more drugs, and more women. This is not a bad thing.

Early on Slash suffers, as all autobiographies do, with too much time spent on Slash’s childhood. One’s childhood, is always infinitely more important and interesting to the person who lived it than to anyone who is reading or hearing about it. Slash’s childhood stories are more interesting than most, but that’s a low bar. I wish all autobiographies would cut the childhood stories down to no more than one chapter, but I know that’s wishful thinking.

Things pick up quickly when Guns N’ Roses begin to come together. Guns was easily the biggest band in the world for a short period of time and the behind the scenes stories are fascinating. With all the turmoil that has surrounded the eventual breakup of the band and the strangeness of Axl Rose, it’s easy to forget that this was the band that released Appetite for Destruction. Slash does a wonderful job of providing interesting, and often hilarious, storytelling Read more…

Just Another Review: Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman

Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman
Published September 16, 2008

Need to Know: This is the first novel written by well-known pop culture commentator Chuck Klosterman. Downtown Owl depicts the fictional town of Owl, North Dakota.

Reason(s) to Read: Chuck Klosterman. If you like the man’s nonfiction work, there is a good chance you’ll like this. The characters living in Klosterman’s Owl are both entertaining and relateable for any of us who have lived in a smallish town. Klosterman grew up in North Dakota and paints an accurate picture of living in a place where everyone knows everyone else and there is little to do but spend your nights driving back and forth on the same street, playing sports (often poorly), and drinking in the same three bars night after night.

Reason(s) to Ignore: Chuck Klosterman. If you’ve read Klosterman before and were turned off, you won’t get a reprieve here. Every character thinks and speaks as Klosterman. Example:

“What kind of play was it? I used to watch the Packers with my dad. Was it a flea-flicker? I love flea-flickers. If I were a football coach, my team would run a lot of flea-flickers. The flea-flicker would be the key to our offense.”

Very few people anywhere would speak the dialogue above, let alone a 23-year-old female history teacher in a town of 600 people (even if she’s “from” Milwaukee). This is just one of the many examples throughout where the characters are obviously speaking in Klosterman’s voice rather than their own.

Also, don’t come here for the plot. This novel is about painting a picture of small town life and the character’s living there. Sure, there is a one weather related event that the novel leads to, but that’s really not the point of the story. Come for the characterization, but don’t expect the plot to drive you along.

So?: Whether you should read this really comes down to how you feel about Klosterman. If you’ve never read Klosterman in the past, this probably isn’t the best place to start (read Killing Yourself to Live or Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs). Klosterman does a great job of creating an entertaining town and set of characters living within it, but it’s hard to separate the characters from the author. Klosterman has always provided entertaining insight into largely meaningless or hypothetical situations, but it’s hard to imagine every single character in a North Dakota small town thinking the same way. In Klosterman’s Owl, they do.

My Useless Opinion: Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
Published November 1, 2010

Reason(s) to read: Everyone seems to have an opinion of Cleopatra, but that opinion is often based on myth over reality. Schiff does an adequate job of showing that Cleopatra was more than a woman who used her sexual appeal to seduce both Julius Caesar and Marc Antony, two of the most important figures in ancient Rome. The writing is engaging, particularly for a biography, and the history is well researched. Schiff does an excellent job of painting a picture of Alexandria and Rome at the time.

Reason(s) to ignore: If you’re looking for a historically rich, factually based account of Cleopatra’s life, you won’t find it here. You won’t find it anywhere. As Schiff readily admits, there are simply not enough historical records of Cleopatra’s life to provide such an account. The accounts that do exist are provided by Romans who often viewed her as little more than a sexual being with an uncanny ability to seduce. Schiff uses the sources available to make a strong argument that Cleopatra was far more politically astute and intelligent than she is given credit for, but much is still based on conjecture. The case presented for Schiff’s viewpoint is solid, but unless your only knowledge of Cleopatra is Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra, you won’t come away with many definitive answers.

Recommended?: Unfortunately, not really. While Schiff’s theories on what Cleopatra would have been thinking or feeling at a particular time are interesting, they are still theories. Through no fault of her own, Schiff is unable to deliver much more than that.

My Useless Opinion: Life by Keith Richards

Keith Richards spent ten years in the number one spot of the New Musical Express list of rock stars most likely to die. This was in the 70’s. Nearly 40 years later Keith Richards is still alive making music with the Rolling Stones, a band he formed and, along with Mick Jagger, became the foundation of. After reading Life, Richards’ incredibly entertaining autobiography, you’ll realize how unlikely this is. Keith Richards should not be alive.

Play a word association game with Keith Richards and it won’t take long to arrive at drugs. Life starts off with a story related to a drug bust, and the stories continue throughout the 500 plus pages. Richards, to his credit, neither boasts nor shies away from his drug use. Many rock biographies touch on drug use and then quickly move on. Drug use was such an integral part of Keith Richards life, that he discusses drug use in the same a common person describes the weekend. Richards has moved on from many of his vices (no more heroin or cocaine), he regrets none of them. There is no self-righteous “don’t do drugs” spiel at the end. Richards did a hell of a lot of drugs, more than nearly anyone who has lived to tell about it, and he was quite successful while doing it. If there’s a lesson in there somewhere, I didn’t find it.

Not surprisingly, Keith’s relationship with Mick Jagger is also a running theme throughout the book. Few duos in rock history have had more public infighting than the Glimmer Twins.  At one point Richards describes the relationship, saying: ”Sometimes I think, ‘I miss my friend’. I wonder, ‘Where did he go?’.” It’s clear that Mick and Keith love each other, but they’re certainly not best friends.

If I have one criticism of Life, is that Richards spends a somewhat excessive amount of time on his side and solo projects, and not enough time on the Stones. If you’re looking for an in-depth look into how Sticky Fingers  was made, you’re looking to the wrong place. This is not The Beatles Anthology. There is no track by track discussion of Let it Bleed. You will, however, get several pages on the formation of the Wingless Angels and Keith’s various other musical projects. That’s not to say that there are not entertaining stories surrounding these projects, because craziness seemed to follow Richards, but I would have preferred more pages dedicated to the Stones’ music.

Perhaps no character in rock and roll history has led a more outrageous existence than Keith Richards, and that alone makes Life a must read. While not a play-by-play of every Stones song recorded, it does give you the feelings and emotions behind many of their best records. If you’re not a Stones fan, there are more than enough sex, drugs, and rock and roll stories to keep you entertained throughout. This is easily one of the best books on rock and roll you’ll find. Read it.

Post Navigation