Sunday, January 22, 2012


Finished Su 1/22/12

A completely enjoyable and comprehensive book about an artist who is not only a consummate musician, but a performer and band leader who has been able to blend and incorporate 'all that is Art' into his music.

Indispensable for fans of his music, and the book also provides a penetrating insight as to how this artist was able to remain on the cutting edge of popular consciousness for better than forty years.

Born Brixton, London. At six years old moved to Bromley
Parents- Peggy, Haywood
George Underwood- Lifelong friend, he damaged Bowie's eye in a fight over a girl.
Konrads, King Bees, Junior's Eyes, The Hype
Haddon Hall
Corinne 'Coco' Schwab- Lifelong employee, friend, lover
Angela Barnett- American, first wife Mother of Zowie (Joe, Duncan)
Mick Ronson- Lead guitar, Hull
Tony Visconti- Arranger, bass player
Tony Defries- Manager
Carlos Alomar- Arranger, guitarist, Puerto Rican
George Murray- Bass Berlin Trilogy (Low Heroes Lodger)
Brian Eno- Arranger/Musical Philosopher
Adrian Belew- Musical Arranger
'Tin Machine'- Reese Gabrels, guitar, Tony Sales, bass, Hunt Sales, drummer
Iman- Second wife, Somalian

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

ABOUT SCHMIDT by Louis Begley

Finished Tu 1/17/12

ABOUT SCHMIDT is a very well-written and intriguing novel which relates the actions and observations of a deeply flawed, and ethically challenged individual. Albert Schmidt is one of the most well-defined fictional characters that I have read in a long time, and reminded me of John Updike's captivating portrait of Harry 'Rabbit' Angstrom from many years ago. Both novelists examine White Upper Middle Class Males who are forced to evolve, and try to find their proper place in a world that seems quite different from their youthful aspirations and dreams. And, the reader is presented with very real ethical dilemmas, and not one single easy moral answer is provided.

Albert is widowed. Mary was his wife
He cheated many, many times. Corrine the babysitter.

Charlotte is their adultdaughter. She is engaged to Jon Riker (Jewish). She is a public relations executive, and defends Big Tobacco, etc.
Albert now lives on Long Island near Sag Harbor in a big house which he wants to give to Charlotte as a wedding gift.
Albert is retired senior partner in a law firm in NYC. He mentored Jon as a Jr. partner.
Late in the novel Albert has an affair with a waitress in his favorite restaurant...Carrie


Sunday, January 15, 2012


Finished Su 1/15/12

Chapter 1, Found Objects: “Into My Arms,” Nick Cave
Chapter 2, The Gold Cure: “I Wanna Live,” The Ramones
Chapter 3, Ask Me If I Care: “Breakdown,” Tom Petty
Chapter 4, Safari: “Grand Canyon,” Magnetic Fields
Chapter 5, You (Plural): “Exile Vilify,” the National
Chapter 6, X’s and O’s: “Pan American Highway,” Frank Black & the Catholics
Chapter 7, A to B: “Beyond Belief,” Elvis Costello
Chapter 8, Selling the General: “And She Was,” Talking Heads
Chapter 9, Forty-Minute Lunch: Kitty Jackson Opens Up About Love, Fame, and Nixon!: “Goddess of Love,” Bryan Ferry
Chapter 10, Out of Body: “Paradise Circus,” Massive Attack
Chapter 11, Good-bye, My Love: “Nothingman,” Pearl Jam
Chapter 12, Great Rock and Roll Pauses: “Mother of Pearl,” Roxy Music (part of me feels I should have chosen the Doobie Brothers “Long Train Runnin’,” though, for obvious reasons)
Chapter 13, Pure Language: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” Jimi Hendrix

Read more

Link to a webpage where links to the characters are graphically presented (seems almost as confusing as the novel)

Link to NPR

Transcribed from the scribbled notes that I made while reading this fascinating novel.

#1 (3rd person)
Sasha- 'the stolen wallet incident' at the Lassimo Hotel while on a date with Alex
The apartment in lower Manhattan had a 'kitchen tub'.
Cos is Sasha's shrink. She suffers from Kleptomania.

#2 (3r person)
"Stop/Go" name of girl group. Bennie is a record producer and Sasha is his assistant.
Bennie takes son, Chris, with Sasha to an audition of "Stop/Go" at their home.
Bennie's pals:
Scotty-Slide guitar player He made the instrument himself. Later a washed-up janitor who drinks Jagermiester.
Alice-The Rich Girl of the bunch.
Jocelyn-Lou's girlfriend who becomes a drug addict.
Bennie remembers, and later, Sasha thinks that the note he has made is really a list of song titles.
-Kissing Mother Superior- In the past, he had hoped to sign a bunch of singing
nuns, and he was so happy about the deal, he kissed the mother superior.
-Hairball What his business friends think of him.
-Poppy Seed Once lice were found in his son Chris's hair.
-On The Can Once after snorting coke he got diarrhea and Abby walked in on

#3 (Rhea's point of view) THE FLAMING DILDOS Bennie's punk band. Scotty on guitar.
Played at "The Mabuhay Gardens" in San Francisco. Black Flag, The Germs, Robin Wiliams, and Whoopi Goldberg appeared at this legendary nightclub.
Rhea and Jocelyn meet Lou for dinner and then go to see THE FLAMING DILDOS. Later, back at Lou's apartment, he tells Rhea that someone will love each and every of her freckles.

#4 The Safari (3rd person) Lou with Rolph (his son)/ Charlie (Charlene) his daughter/Mindy, Lou's 23 year old girlfriend. A lioness attacks bass player for The Conduits named Chronos. African driver, Albert, is attracted to Mindy. Rolph describes what he 'thinks' is going on, and Lou is stricken with jealousy. He steps up the sex with Mindy.
"Women are too crazy, or not crazy enough". Mindy is studying for a degree in Anthropology at UCLA, and took many books with her on the safari, but didn't use them.

#5 (Jocelyn's point of view) Takes place at dying Lou's bedside. Rhea has had three kids, and is living in Seattle. Jocelyn has kicked drugs. Rolph had shot himself in the head at 28 years old.

#6 (Scotty's point of view) Scotty writes Bennie Salazar a letter at Sow's Ear Records, and shows up with a fresh caught fish for him. As a child, when Scotty's mother died, he starred at the sun and suffers from vision loss. Bennie and Scotty were both after the same girl, Alice. Bennie ends the interview by giving Scotty a card, and tells him to get in touch if he wants to get back into music. Scotty gives this card to a junkie couple that he sees on the street later that day. The guy was a musician.

"B" #7 Bennie is now married to Stephanie and they live in the suburbs of NY. They have recently joined The Crandale Country Club. They are both 'outsiders'. Stephanie makes friends with Kathy, and they bond over tennis. Jules Jones, Stephanie's brother, has recently gotten out of prison for the attempted rape of film star, Kitty Jackson. Stephanie handles PR for Bosco, The Conduits guitarist.
Jules says, "I'm like America, Our hands are dirty".

TIME IS A GOON first mentioned by Bosco This is after Stephanie and Jules go to visit Bosco. She had made up the appointment to play tennis with Kathy. She was using the meeting (much later in the day) as an excuse to tell Bennie. Bosco wants to stage A SUICIDE TOUR. He knows that he is a 'has been', so he wants to blow it all on one last tour, and go down in flames. Jules volunteers to handle the publicity. Stephanie is appalled. Stephanie finds a bobby pin, and surmises that Bennie has been cheating with Kathy. In the last part of the chapter, she staggers to the fence and says hello to Noreen. Noreen is a neighbor who has been ostracized by the community of rich Republicans.

#8 SELLING THE GENERAL (3rd person) PR woman, LA DOLL (Dolly) represents a genocidal dictator. She does this to support her daughter, Lulu. She has expensive tuition payments. Dolly's career ended when a ceiling display made from oil and water, broke apart, and rained down on the party guests. Many were disfigured, and the lawyers had a field day. She served time in jail, and "gained 30 pounds and fifty years". She convinces 'over the hill' Kitty Jackson to have her photo taken with the General to 'sex up' his image. They (Kitty, Dolly, and Lulu) meet with The General and his followers at a remote location, Kitty harasses The General about his bloody practices, and Kitty is taken, and Dolly and Lulu are flown home. Several months later, the photos are released, and the General's image really is saved. He pays Dolly, and she has enough money to set up a gourmet shop in upstate New York.

#9 JULES JONES INTERVIEWS KITTY JACKSON This chapter has many foot notes and explains Jules's incarceration, but really doesn't make clear Why he did it. This incident happened when Kitty was 19, and she is 28 when she goes to meet The General. She tells Jules that she used to ride horses, and she had a horse named Nixon. He says, "like the president"?, but she doesn't know what he's talking about. She just liked the sound of the word. Jules spent time on Riker's Island.

#10 (first person Robert Freeman, Bobby) Bobby is a big football player from Florida who drowns in the East River when Drew and him jumped in one winter morning. Bobby told Drew about Sasha's background of theft, prostitution in Italy, and drug use. Drew is shocked. Drew is from Wisconsin. They take Ecstasy. "You are a survivor".

#11 (3rd person) Ted Hollander, Sasha's uncle, goes to Naples, Italy to find Sasha. She had been missing for two years, and she left when she was 17. Ted is married to Susan, and teaches Art History in college. He yearns to write Art criticism. ORPHEUS/EURYDICE Beth and Andy are Sasha's parents. Ted worked as a contractor through college. Ted stumbles upon Sasha buying black market cigarettes in a sleazy part of Naples. She agrees to meet him for dinner, and later they go to a nightclub where she picks his pocket, and steals his wallet. The sun is framed in a window of her apartment. "It's Mine".

#12 Chapter Twelve is a series of drawings with dialog. Lincoln is Sasha's brother and he catalogs pauses in songs. She tells of her life with Drew.

THE FLAMES song "A MIGHTY SWORD" This might be the heart of the novel.

#13 The scene begins before Scotty's Comeback Concert in lower Manhattan. Alex wants to work for Bennie. Bennie is in his early sixties, everyone has children. Lots of texting. Lulu gets Scotty to play the show. Lulu is Dolly's daughter. Alex and Bennie go to see if Sasha still lives where she used to many years ago. They see a woman, but it is just another young woman trying to put her keys into the door.

Mo 1/16/12 Watched the PowerPoint presentation of Chapter #12 at Amazon books. I was on the Monday night chat, and wasn't even aware that Egan had made this page. This chapter was written, and presented to the publisher months after the novel was completed.
"Shame Memories" are the list that Sasha thinks are song titles.
'Gold Flakes/Pesticide Deodorant(Raid)' are the initial components that Egan used to create the character of Bennie.
"I BELIEVE IN YOU" This is the note that Sasha found in Alex's wallet in Chapter #1. I thought that he might have written it himself, but Egan is not so sure.

Egan writes her fiction in long hand, and non-fiction in PowerPoint. Chapter #12 was her first use of PowerPoint in fiction.
She feels that now PowerPoint is a genre unto itself.
DISCONTINUITY is the structural principle of the 'pauses' and the key to the novel.
Chapter #12 is set in the dessert, and Andrew is now a heart surgeon and married to Sasha. Alison is their daughter, and she is the creator of the presentation. Talks of her relationship to her parents, and their relationship to each other. Lincoln is her brother and originator of the 'Pause Principle'. She and her father go for a walk in the dessert, and they speak of the child that died the day before of heart problems that Drew was unable to cure. They walk by solar panels which have realigned to capture the light of the moon. Alison thinks that it might be a time machine and when they get back to their house, no one will be there, and the house will be abandoned.

Reminded me of TIME'S ARROW Martin Amis, and some of the novels of Don DeLillo

Friday, January 13, 2012


Finished Fr 1/13/12

Beautifully written 'prose poems' about seven jazz greats.

LESTER YOUNG; Alcoholic 'sweet' sax player. The opposite of Coleman Hawkins. In Army prison during WWII for pot and booze.

THELONIOUS MONK; Lived in NYC and cared for by his wife, Nellie. Madman piano player.

BUD POWELL; Incipient mental illness aggravated by a beating by police in 1945. Alcoholic.

BEN WEBSTER; Sax player out of Kansas City- "The Brute". Lived in Europe.

CHARLES MINGUS; Bass player/Composer. Wildly moody and known for trashing hotels a decade before The Who. "EPITAPH" Over 2 hour orchestral composition.

CHET BAKER; West Coast trumpet player. 'Cool Jazz' Style. Junkie, and lived way beyond his time....Like A Ghost.

ART PEPPER; White Alto Sax; Junkie and spent many years in San Quentin.

THE PUB CRAWLER by Maurice Procter

Finished Fr 1/13/12

This novel is from a series, FIFTY CLASSIC OF CRIME FICTION 1950-1975
"Acknowledged classics, overlooked classics, and classics totally unsuspected"

MAURICE PROCTER (1909-1973) Procter was a constable in the Halifax borough police (Yorkshire) for twenty years and began writing fiction immediately after his retirement in 1946.

Crime: Owner of 'The Starving Rascal Pub' is murdered, and his coin collection is stolen. Who Donnit?

Sam Gilmour- Owner of 'The Starving Rascal'
Detective Inspector Robert Fairbrother-Head of the police investigation
Bill Knight- Undercover cop looking for illegal gambling, but kept in place to find murderer.
Gay Gilmour- Sam raised her, but she is actually the daughter of a blind lawyer, John Harper
Hudson House-Rooming house owned by Mrs. Byles
Gunner Byles- Son, alcoholic, "HE DONE IT"
Junie Byles- Sunny sister and she's attracted to Bill
Frank McGeen- Brother in law to Gunner; He robbed Gunner of the coin collection after the killing and robbery of Sam Gilmour at The Starving Rascal.
Lew Frost- Friend of Frank McGeen
Rosemary Byles- Older sister of Junie

Gay Gilmour seems like the logical love interest for Bill Knight, but in the end of the novel, he seems to prefer Junie. She's low class, but honest and innocent.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

LUSH LIFE by Richard Price

Finished Su 1/8/12

"Not tonight, My Man!"

Three young men are out for a few drinks and and an innocent evening of fun on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. All three work at a trendy local bar-restaurant, Cafe Berkmann. They are well-educated, white, entitled, and feel fairly certain that all of their creative and artistic aspirations are soon to be realized. Suddenly, two young black men,jump from the shadows, and demand their wallets. A shot is fired, and one of the young white men falls dead in the street.

How this senseless mugging affects those involved, and the entire community is the subject of Richard Price's terrific urban drama. Eric, one of the three white men, is the only one who saw the shooter, but due to some mistaken witnesses, he is treated as a possible perpetrator. And, he was so terrified by the deadly encounter that his whole demeanor is forever changed. Steven, although he was dead drunk at the time of the mugging, and is of no use to the investigation, soon plays the media for all it's worth, and hopes to cash in on his fifteen minutes of fame. But none of this makes any difference to Ike. He was the guy with the sunny disposition that everyone liked, with his whole life ahead of him, yet now he is just one more tragic Big City statistic.

Ike's father, Billy, becomes a problem for the police investigation, because he becomes absolutely unhinged due to the loss of his son. He begins to drink heavily, and acts so strangely that Detective Matty Case is at a loss to control him.

This fine novel is not a run-of-the-mill police procedural, although there is a captivating plot-line, however the book is more of a finely etched character study which examines people whose lives were forever changed by this one senseless act of urban violence.

All of Richard Price's novels are well worth a look, and this is my favorite of the bunch. I give it Five Stars!!!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley

Finished Tu 1/3/12

This is the January selection for the library's Classical Book Club, and I plan to attend on Monday, 1/9 at noon.

Stylistically this is a fairly difficult novel to appreciate, but his ideas of the future are very striking for a book written in 1932.

"Soma is Christianity without the tears"
"History is Bunk"

There is so much on-line about this novel it is almost not necessary to actually read it. According to Wikipedia it is the fifth best novel of the 20th century.

I think that the major theme of the work is that in the future, modernity trades Truth and Beauty for Comfort and Peace of Mind. The characters are merely 'cut-outs' which advance Huxley's philosophical points.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Finished Su 1/1/12
(A third Soft Skull Press edition with a preface by Greg Palast and a new introduction by Mark Crispin Miller)

I read this book because I recently saw the documentary, "Horns and Halos" which was more about the author, James Hatfield, and how the writing of this book had such a negative impact on his life. Before the film was released, he committed suicide. The documentary seemed to be more about who should be allowed to have a say in the compiling of the historical record. Hatfield had a criminal record, and it was generally believed (by some people) that his input and observations could not be trusted. I was expecting the book to be a complete hatchet-job, but actually I have more respect for Bush after reading the book that I did before.

Interesting Facts:

-Bush had a sister, Robin, that died of leukemia when she was three and he was seven. This made him the oldest child in the family by seven years, and he was almost a father figure to the other children. His father was always on the road due to his oil field business.
-Obviously his father used his pull to get him in The Texas National Guard, but it is possible that he would have been given special consideration regardless of his family, because he wanted to become a pilot, and that required over a year of training. Most young men could not afford to be tied up for that length of time.
-He stopped drinking right after his fortieth birthday party. His father, his wife, and various family members were well aware of his heavy drinking, and knew for many years that he had a problem with alcohol.
The story about him dancing nude and drunk on the bar in the officer's club of The Texas National Guard was first mentioned in The Drudge Report. Republican power-brokers were afraid that such a photo existed, and it could possibly end his political career. And, this type of behavior doesn't seem that far afield of what Bush will acknowledge, although he seems to generalize it all as 'young and irresponsible behavior', and he doesn't go into much detail.
-His father actually made money by drilling for oil in Midland, Texas. When George W. was involved in the oil business it seems that he made his money by clever manipulation of loans and favors.
-His co-ownership of The Texas Rangers seems to be all about manipulation of money. To me, it is obvious that if the city of Arlington Texas felt that they needed a ballpark, municipal leaders making $60,000 to $80,000 could have attracted investment money and come up with the taxes necessary to fund the project. Why was it necessary for 'The Venture Capitalists'(Vultures) to come in, and skim millions off the top? If a stadium was deemed an asset to the community, then the assets should have gone to the community, and not to rich carpet-baggers.

The 'Big Reveal' about Bush's 1972 alleged cocaine bust is included in an Afterword to the book. Hatfield says that due to an arrest for possession, he was forced to work for Project P.U.L.L, a now-defunct inner-city program for troubled teens, and then his record was cleared. This was set up by his father, George H.W. Bush who was at the time the US ambassador to the UN. And, it seems that George W. was issued a new drivers license number in 1994 which effectively erased any trace of possible illegalities. Who deemed this necessary, and why? Years later Bush would hedge any questions about drug use, and would talk of a 'statute of limitations' which would apply to no other government official other than himself. He always has claimed that he was 'young and irresponsible', but he never cut anyone else any slack if they acted young and irresponsible.

At the end of the book, without a doubt, I felt that George W. Bush seems like the kind of guy who was at the right place, at the right time, and with the help of a wealthy and influential family, always landed on his feet. The book is well-written, fully documented, and provides a rather realistic portrayal of a complicated character. He is probably highly personable and socially adept, yet clearly, the man is more 'lucky', than 'successful', and I doubt if any of us would even know who he was had he not been connected to a powerful and wealthy political dynasty.

-"Compassionate Conservatism" is when they ask you how you want your jello before they throw the switch.
-"Compassionate Conservatism" is like a vegetarian cannibal.
"Born on third base, and is convinced that he hit a triple"