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.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Book learning #88 Things the grandchildren should know by Mark Oliver Everett

The Eels are easily in my top five all time favourite bands. I am almost unable to fault any of the output of the past twenty years. Not only that, but I have found some crazy levels of personal and moral inspiration from the words uttered and written by Mr E. 

Seeing the band recently was one of the highlights of my gig going life. The evening was absolutely perfect, driving through a cold unseasonally wintery March evening to see them following a profoundly shitty day at a job I could not stand. I had yet to hear the latest album  so the gig was made the better by having to carefully listen to songs to see if I approved.

I approved.

Quite frankly, at my age, I should know better, very much better.
But, really, why concern myself with aging and all that is supposed to go with it?

I got this book for my birthday and read it swiftly. It covers the full run of human existence and offers some gorgeous nuggets of advice to any wannabe creative type. It is written in the style of the lyrics and accordingly, is a true joy to behold and enjoy.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Book learning # 87 The Psychopath test by Jon Ronson.

Oh dear.
I really like  Jon Ronson.
He's brilliant on telly and I have thoroughly enjoyed some of  his other books.
This one even had a comment on the back " laugh out loud hilarious" or somesuch. 
That comment was from Will Self.
Rule of thumb?
Never trust a man who walks from airports.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Book Learning #86 Religion for Atheists. Alain de Botton

Oh cruel world!
Oh tortuous journey,
Oh voyage of wrecked dreams.

Where is the hope?
Where do the answers lie?

Such emotions , such questions are as old as the hills.
As a group, humanity has tried to answer them in a variety of ways.

Alain de Botton compares religion with secularism and draws some interesting conclusions.

I still enjoy the air of mystery that religion brings, even if I know that it's just not true.
He argues that you do not need to be a 'believer' to cherish the benefits of religion, especially as modern society has pretty much underperformed in meeting some of our basic human needs.

Also, it was an absolutely beautiful book to hold and to read.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Book learning #85 Team of rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin

The first thing that went wrong was that I did not purchase this book when it first came out in paperback (remember I don't do hardback books). Had I invested back in 2007 I would have got the correct version, not the movie spin off edition.
I enjoyed what I read and ironically have just put it down for a few weeks as it gets good (or better).
Also, linked into the first point, I have had a number of people asking me to go and watch the movie with them. This will kill the book. Ask Harry Potter.
Is it me or do nineteenth century political books move rather slowly? I'm sure any one of us living now would go insane quite quickly were we deposited back into the 1860s.
I dearly hope I will gather this up again and complete it, I dearly hope to hold the Lincolnesque spirit close to my soul.
The problem with a lengthy book is that eventually, no matter how you try, you will be tempted by other, less committed relationships.
That's what happened in Waterstones this afternoon.