TEXT: I go through long periods wherein I can't seem to find anything I want to read, and then suddenly strike oil and can't seem to find the time to read all the things that have suddenly piqued my interest. As I mentioned back on this post, over the course of the Christmas break, I read Dean Wareham's memoir, "Black Postcards," which I completely loved. That book reignited my taste for rock reads. After that, I skimmed through "In the Pleasure Groove," the autobiography of John Taylor of Duran Duran. While not quite as engaging as Dean's book, it was actually pretty good (and way more readable, for what it's worth, than Pete Townshend's strangely joyless, workmanlike memoir).
John Taylor's book took about a weekend to page through, so after that I reached for the paperback edition of Will Hermes' "Love Goes to Buildings on Fire," which purported to document arguably the most fertile period of music and culture in New York City's relatively recent history (i.e. the mid-to-late 70s). I was certainly captivated by the subject matter, but to be honest, the constant invocations of Dylan, Springsteen and Patti Smith started to bore the socks off me in pretty short order. With all due respect to Hermes (let alone the legions of friends and loyal Flaming Pablum readers who pray at those same alters), I just don't give a crap about those three artists. Sorry, there it is. Feel free to burn me in effigy, but if you want to bore me out of a room sometime soon, start telling me how Horses by Patti Smith changed your life. I'll be gone in a second.
Hungry for new material, I was suddenly deluged with options. For a start, picked up Peter Hook's new memoir, "Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division." Along with being a striking physical artifact (shrouded in black, with the subtle Saville design from Unknown Pleasure across its cover), Hook's book is everything I wanted it to be; an affable, conversational glimpse into Joy Division's back history, albeit through the admittedly biased eyes of one of its participants, fueled by a sizable dosage of sour grapes. I got about a third of the way through it before I was suddenly bestowed a copy of a friend of mine's new novel, which I felt obligated to read. As such, I put Hooky down and dutifully cracked the binding on my friend's hopeful endeavor.
When a friend asks you to read his or her book, it's kind of scary for all parties concerned. It's a bit like when a friend invites you to come see their band play or ... much worse ... come witness their rookie attempts at being a stand-up comic. You want to be supportive and encouraging, but sometimes it's hard to feign enthusiasm when the act isn't quite up to snuff. I can't imagine pouring myself into the writing of a book and then showing it to someone. I take it as the greatest complement that he wanted me to read it, as presumably that means that he values my opinion.
In any case, I'm very happy to report that I found my friend's novel totally engaging, readable and well-executed (which, honestly, was a huge relief). I'm not in a position to give further details, but when I can, I'll give it a proper recommendation here.
I've since gone back to Peter Hook's opus. On deck after that is "Poseur: A Memoir of Downtown New York City in the `90s." Obviously, with a title like that, I clearly had to pick this book up. I was excited until I spotted the author's name, Marc Spitz.
I don't believe I've ever actually met Mr. Spitz, but he and I have had several parallel experiences. Younger than me by only a couple of years, Spitz also started off as an intern at SPIN (although after my fleeting tenure there). Unlike me, however, Spitz managed to climb the ladder and become a proper writer for the magazine and summarily went onto quasi-fame in the rock writer demographic. I too continued to travel in those circles, but more as a lower-profile bottom-feeder compared to Spitz, who seems to have capitalized on the experience.
In all candor, his memoir will probably make me simultaneously angry, envious and bitterly pedantic about meaningless minutia about music and NYC, but I'm gong to withhold judgement for the moment (or at least until I've actually read the book). While I may have several preconceptions about Spitz (I'm automatically wary of anyone who publishes fiction with titles cribbed from Smiths' lyrics), how many books can I claim to have published, eh? Zero. Zilch. So hats off to Marc Spitz. I look forward to reading this book. Look for a review of it when I'm done.
FILM: My wife and kids quite recently spent a week with my mother-in-law down in Texas, leaving me to fend for m'self here in the big bad city. As such, on one of my free afternoons, I took the opportunity to do something I rarely get to do; go to the movies. I mean, we still see lots of films, but there's a very sharp difference between watching a movie on your couch and actually sitting down in a dark theater.
That afternoon, it was a toss-up between Peter Jackson's invariably interminable trek through "The Hobbit" (I gather he's going to stretch that single book into three films, a stunt that seems somewhat needless) or this strangely timed documentary on the late Ed Koch called ... wait for it ... "Koch." I chose the latter, and I'm damn glad I did. Check out the trailer below.
DVD: It's only been six years since I've done one of these, but already these subcategories seem so quaintly dated. I mean, I'm very old school, but does anyone else actually watch DVDs anymore? I mean, I do, but it seems the rest of the world is more fixated with streaming and "on demand" and whatnot. In any case, being that I do still unapologetically buy DVDs, the last two I got my grubby little mitts on were the Criterion Collection edition of "Gray's Anatomy" by Spalding Gray (I consider myself an ardent Gray acolyte and endeavor to track down all of his available works) and I finally picked up a copy of the sprawling Alice Donut documentary, "Freaks in Love." Did I need to own this film? Not really, but I'm damn glad I saw it. I only wish certain other bands had films this detailed devoted to them. It certainly made me dig out my old Alice Donut albums again.
WEBSITE: By this stage of the proceedings, I'm encountering cool new blogs, Tumblrs and websites all the time. The last one that really struck me, I suppose, was Bargain Bin Blasphemy, a Tumblr which takes age-old, middle-of-the-road album covers and gives them an endearing Black Metal makeover.
TELEVISION SHOW: Despite the fact that I have nothing be vicious, palpable contempt for all four of the series' primary protagonists, I cannot seem to stop myself from continuing to watch "Girls."
MUSIC: It's been a pretty dry spell in terms of discovering new artists to get excited about. As such, I've been digging a lot of older music of late. Specifically, I've been grooving to high-powered rotations of The Cramps, Einsturzende Neubauten, Lou Reed, Joy Division (largely inspired by Peter Hook's book) and Pink Floyd, after I lazily sprang for the unforgivable "Experience Edition" of Wish You Were Here.
I hemmed and hawed about it for a long while, but after reading lots of purple prose about Soundgarden's reunion album, the horribly titled King Animal, I hate to say that I really can't seem to find myself giving that much of a damn about it. And I loved Soundgarden back in the day. I first saw them back at L'Amour in Brooklyn on the tour for Louder Than Love, and dutifully saw them on every tour following. But I can't seem to get excited about this new album. I just sounds formulaic to me. The band's former sonic sprawl and primal yawp seem alternately forced or entirely absent. I genuinely want to like it, but it just isn't happening. Am I missing something?