Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Book Learning #95 Yeah Yeah Yeah- The story of modern pop by Bob Stanley.

   A couple of years ago I requested (and received) such a lengthy list of 'Christmas books' that I was never able to read them. They still sit upon my shelves waiting for the right time.
   Last year I changed my policy and requested one book.
This book.
   It started slowly, with a distant observer's eye over the 1950s and early 1960s. It warmed up with the familiarity of the counter culture and the bands, music and wider references that the period threw up.
   I will be honest, the first few chapters were hard work, Like walking through a large party hoping to find someone you knew, who you could relax with. Instead you keep bumping into old family friends who you either cant stand or who bore you senseless. And then you bump into Buddy Holly but its only for a fleeting moment as Stanley devotes not much more than a couple of pages to his genius.
   By the time the 1970s roll up, it's comfortable and engaging territory. You recall the sounds and some of the faces, It's a devil of a book in the sense that you frequently reach for Youtube to check out videos and performances from 'Top of the Pops'.
   I enjoyed the way Stanley lets his views slip from time to time, sometimes validating an opinion or a rumour (The Stranglers- genuinely nasty people?, UB40- crap and lazy!) and also challenging lazily held prejudice (Michael Jackson- He really was the Prince of Pop!)
   As Stanley reflects on the 1980s and 1990s its clear he's in deep home territory, he knows his stuff, the people and in some respects, so do I. Its where history meets nostalgia, but in a good way.

Well worth struggling through the first few pages.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Book Learning #94 Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

I was stuck in a severe reading malaise, perhaps as a result of twelve very difficult months. Then I met you. In a bookshop in Croydon.
Croydon of all places!
I was there with Frau Random Doubt dealing with an immigration matter.
My love of graphic novels  and a fondness towards all things Persian/Iranian combined in this witty autobiography.

Thank you, I feel more decent reading on its way.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Book Learning #93 Autobiography by Morrissey

Oh the things one will do after a late night 'Newsnight' argument between two media worthies.
Click, tap, click.
The Morrissey Autobiography wends it's way to me.

I loved The Smiths, about three years too late for their prime but I loved them anyway and love them still. Every word, note, the lot.
I never quite got the post Smiths Morrissey. I liked 'Viva Hate' but that was it.

This book, as the back cover blurb points out, is about Morrissey, not The Smiths.
He spends some interesting prose on his upbringing and path to musical glory in the early/mid eighties.
This is well written and engaging stuff.

Then The Smiths split and he tells us about his solo efforts.
Still well written but I'm working hard to stick with it.

The court case between the members of The Smiths provides over 100 pages of bitchy, self indulgent, whinging. I wanted to throw the book away but somehow felt that I might possibly miss out somehow.

I should have known better.

In parts this reminded me of Bob Dylan's 'Chronicles' which was a testament to a lost era of musical history.
In parts Oscar Wilde's 'De Profundis' which was a work of incredible originality and emotion.

This was neither, it lost me.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Book learning #92 A history of modern Britain by Andrew Marr

I was in London during the summer, at a friend's house.
We had borrowed their home, some milk , towels and two Game of Thrones DVD box sets.
I simply couldn't thwaite the idea of borrowing a book from the shelf.

But during those few summer days in the capital, I did spend some time (on the loo, on the sofa) leafing through this account of British politics and society since 1945.

Manageable, readable and illuminating. A lengthy, but engrossing read. A good look at some of the hard times, false starts and failures of Britain's slow and so far, faltering decline.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Book learning #91 Down and out in Paris and London by George Orwell

Believe it or not, I am still working my way through the works of George Orwell.
26 years since first reading Animal Farm.

It's not even that he wrote a vast amount.

I certainly enjoyed this but I have found that I much prefer his novels.
This engaged me and certainly kept me going with real and sustained interest but somehow, something was just a little bit lacking.

I am of course behaving like the child at Christmas who moans on Boxing day because they didn't get the complete set of all the other stuff they would have wanted, this book was great, just not the greatest.

Book learning #90 The Golden door, Letters to America by AA.Gill

How nice to meet a kindred spirit, How queer to imagine that it should be AA.Gill.

I read this book a few months ago, before reading the LBJ book.
I thoroughly enjoyed it but for some reason, well I know but I'm not telling, I neglected to write about it.
It all seems like such a long time ago, I will say this.
I book , a series of essays written by a man who clearly and admittedly loves America.
Love in the greatest sense, the awareness of imperfection and the tolerance of failings, but also love as the celebration of ambition and delight.

I know those feelings, I share them.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Book Learning #89 The years of Lyndon Johnson. The Passage of Power by Robert A. Caro

This was a book that I had waited over ten years for.
I had read 90% of the previous volume over the past five.
I had waited an additional year for the paperback version to appear.

Worth every minute of every day.

For the LBJ junkie, Caro is the absolute fix.
Every sentence is crafted, the sources are varied and deep and, considering the passing of time, often very recent and able to take account of recent developments.

I just loved the retelling of Johnson's fumbling of the 1960 nomination and the subsequent offer of the Vice Presidency. Caro then took us through the key events of the Kennedy administration and LBJ's role (or lack of) in them. The events in Dallas in 1963 read like a tragic crime thriller.
What was particularly fascinating was the way Caro handled Johnson's handling of the transition. The Kennedy family, the House, Senate and the legislative programme inherited from his slain predecessor.

Some of my favourite bits were the human glimpses into LBJ, I pissed myself when reading about the LBJ express and his attempts to control the loud music.

I can't wait for the next chapter in this history.