Tag: Memoir

Work Related Dreams, Hypnagogia, Tetris Effect, Example of

Most of the commercials we produced were thirty- and sixty-second spots for products like Maxwell House Coffee, Vicks Vaporub, Ajax (bum-bum, the foaming cleanser), Colgate Dental Cream, and other household products. Technically speaking, these early ads were the simplest work imaginable. There’s a dancing coffee pot or some such thing with a jingle about Maxwell House exploding flavor buds; cut to a man tasting a steaming cup of coffee while his lovely, crisp wife looks on expectantly; cut to the best take of his reaction (“Hmm, that’s delicious!”); cut to the sign-off; and you’re through. But nothing is ever that simple in the advertising business.

This kind of work was all right for a week or two. It had its curiosities. But after a few months at Tempo, I was morose and close to broken, for I knew I was using almost none of the skills that had landed me the job in the first place. At night bad dreams about exploding flavor buds and foaming cleansers with catchy jingles and forced smiles began to bother me. In the one nightmare I still recall, I was stuffed into a Maxwell House jar and exploded into ten thousand pieces when they poured the boiling water on me.

When The Shooting Stops … The Cutting Begins 
Ralph Rosenblum, Robert Karen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetris_effect
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypnagogia

50 Best Memoirs of Past 50 Years – New York Times List

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/06/26/books/best-memoirs.html

Fierce Attachments – Vivian Gornick
The Woman Warrior – Maxine Hong Kingston
Fun Home – Alison Bechdel
The Liars’ Club – Mary Karr
Hitch-22 – Christopher Hitchens
Men We Reaped – Jesmyn Ward
Palimpsest – Gore Vidal
Giving Up the Ghost – Hilary Mantel
A Childhood – Harry Crews
Dreams From My Father – Barack Obama
Patrimony – Philip Roth
All God’s Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw – Theodore Rosengarten
Lives Other Than My Own – Emmanuel Carrère. Translated from the French by Linda Coverdale.
A Tale of Love and Darkness – Amos Oz. Translated from the Hebrew by Nicholas de Lange.
This Boy’s Life – Tobias Wolff
A Life’s Work – Rachel Cusk
Boyhood – J.M. Coetzee
Conundrum – Jan Morris
Wave – Sonali Deraniyagala
Always Unreliable: Unreliable Memoirs, Falling Towards England and May Week Was in June – Clive James
Travels With Lizbeth – Lars Eighner
Hold Still – Sally Mann
Country Girl – Edna O’Brien
Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi. Translated from the French by Mattias Ripa and Blake Ferris
Negroland – Margo Jefferson
Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. – Viv Albertine
Experience – Martin Amis
Slow Days, Fast Company – Eve Babitz
Growing Up – Russell Baker
Kafka Was the Rage – Anatole Broyard
Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Year of Magical Thinking – Joan Didion
Barbarian Days – William Finnegan
Personal History – Katharine Graham
Thinking in Pictures – Temple Grandin
Autobiography of a Face – Lucy Grealy
Dancing With Cuba – Alma Guillermoprieto. Translated from the Spanish by Esther Allen.
Minor Characters – Joyce Johnson
The Memory Chalet – Tony Judt
Heavy – Kiese Laymon
Priestdaddy – Patricia Lockwood
H Is for Hawk – Helen Macdonald
The Color of Water – James McBride
Angela’s Ashes – Frank McCourt
Cockroaches – Scholastique Mukasonga. Translated from the French by Jordan Stump.
Life – Keith Richards
A Life in the Twentieth Century – Arthur Schlesinger Jr.
My Lives – Edmund White
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? – Jeanette Winterson
Close to the Knives – David Wojnarowicz

See also – The 50 Greatest Rock Memoirs of All Time – Rolling Stone List

5 Books I Read in 2021 That Weren’t Published in 2021

These were some books that I read in 21 and recommend. In no particular order and blurbs via Amazon.

Chickenhawk
Robert Mason

A true, bestselling story from the battlefield that faithfully portrays the horror, the madness, and the trauma of the Vietnam War

More than half a million copies of Chickenhawk have been sold since it was first published in 1983. Now with a new afterword by the author and photographs taken by him during the conflict, this straight-from-the-shoulder account tells the electrifying truth about the helicopter war in Vietnam. This is Robert Mason’s astounding personal story of men at war. A veteran of more than one thousand combat missions, Mason gives staggering descriptions that cut to the heart of the combat experience: the fear and belligerence, the quiet insights and raging madness, the lasting friendships and sudden death—the extreme emotions of a “chickenhawk” in constant danger.

So, Anyway
John Cleese

John Cleese’s huge comedic influence has stretched across generations; his sharp irreverent eye and the unique brand of physical comedy he perfected now seem written into comedy’s DNA. In this rollicking memoir, Cleese recalls his humble beginnings in a sleepy English town, his early comedic days at Cambridge University (with future Python partner Graham Chapman), and the founding of the landmark comedy troupe that would propel him to worldwide renown.

Cleese was just days away from graduating Cambridge and setting off on a law career when he was visited by two BBC executives, who offered him a job writing comedy for radio. That fateful moment—and a near-simultaneous offer to take his university humor revue to London’s famed West End—propelled him down a different path, cutting his teeth writing for stars like David Frost and Peter Sellers, and eventually joining the five other Pythons to pioneer a new kind of comedy that prized invention, silliness, and absurdity. Along the way, he found his first true love with the actress Connie Booth and transformed himself from a reluctant performer to a world class actor and back again.

Fired!: Tales of the Canned, Canceled, Downsized, & Dismissed
Annabelle Gurwitch (Author), Bill Maher (Contributor), Felicity Huffman (Contributor), Bob Saget (Contributor), Robert Reich (Contributor), et al

Gurwitch’s popular Web site (www.firedbyannabellegurwitch.com) entices people to turn in their best tales of their worst firings; the cream of that crop is gathered in this star-studded collection of misery. The book is divided into chapters with titles like “The Job So Terrible You Can Only Hope to Be Fired” and “The Time You Deserved to Be Fired,” but mostly it’s just tales of horrible things happening to funny people. Gurwitch’s own piece—in which she’s canned from her role in a play written and directed by an officious Woody Allen, who told her “You look retarded”—is par for the course, with its droll humor and dash of celebrity. Comedians Bill Maher, D.L. Hughley, Bob Saget and Andy Borowitz all get in their zingers, while Illeana Douglas composes a poem that ranges from getting fired as a coat check girl (“How is it/possible to be fired hanging coats?/I have arms. I know what coats are”) to high farce with borderline psychotic filmmakers. The few noncelebrities invited to share their woes are generally less funny, though they tend to be more unpredictable, such as the ex–White House chef who provides a nice recipe for seared scallops.

The Last Face You’ll Ever See: The Culture of Death Row 
Ivan Solotaroff

In fascinating detail, Ivan Solotaroff introduces us to the men who carry out executions. Although the emphasis is on the personal lives of these men and of those they have to put to death, The Last Face You’ll Ever See also addresses some of the deeper issues of the death penalty and connects the veiled, elusive figure of the executioner to the vast majority of Americans who, since 1977, have claimed to support executions. Why do we do it? Or, more exactly, why do we want to?

The Last Face You’ll Ever See is not about the polarizing issues of the death penalty — it is a firsthand report about the culture of executions: the executioners, the death-row inmates, and everyone involved in the act. An engrossing, unsettling, and provocative book, this work will forever affect anyone who reads it.

The Last Taxi Driver
Lee Durkee

Hailed by George Saunders as “a true original—a wise and wildly talented writer,” Lee Durkee takes readers on a high-stakes cab ride through an unforgettable shift. Meet Lou—a lapsed novelist, struggling Buddhist, and UFO fan—who drives for a ramshackle taxi company that operates on the outskirts of a north Mississippi college town. With Uber moving into town and his way of life vanishing, his girlfriend moving out, and his archenemy dispatcher suddenly returning to town on the lam, Lou must finish his bedlam shift by aiding and abetting the host of criminal misfits haunting the back seat of his disintegrating Town Car. Lou is forced to decide how much he can take as a driver, and whether keeping his job is worth madness and heartbreak.

Here’s last years version of this list:
9 Books I Read in 2020 That Weren’t Published in 2020

Those Hipsters Might Have a Point

Q: How did the hipster burn his tongue?
A: He drank his coffee before it was cool.

Grundy was the big dividing line in the Sex Pistols’ story. Before it, we were all about the music, but from then on it was all about the media. In some ways it was our finest moment, but in others it was the beginning of the end.

The crowds were settling into a formula, too. Instead of thinking for themselves like they used to, the people who came to the occasional gig we did actually get to play seemed to have almost a code of conduct in their minds of how they should behave. They’d read that spitting and pogoing was the thing to do, so they fucking did it.

Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol
Steve Jones

Music Connecting People, Example of – Joe Jackson Anecdote

I’M SITTING at the counter in my favorite New York diner, tucking into eggs over easy with hash browns—very English, the breakfast fry-up, but very American, too. I’m washing it down with cranberry juice—caffeine is probably the only vice I don’t have—and someone turns on the radio.

Most of the time, I don’t hear music. My brain just tunes it out. We’re all bombarded with some sort of music on a daily basis—in shops, TV commercials, restaurants, lifts—most of it simply noise pollution, deadening us to the real joy of music. So I only listen when I really want to. But the Puerto Rican waitress has turned on a Spanish channel, and a seductive salsa rhythm seeps into the room. It’s a charanga band—a traditional group that uses flute and violin over the standard latin rhythm section of congas, bongos, and timbales—and now I’m half-listening. Then the violinist takes a solo, and I’m hooked. He’s a great, inspired player. The band is playing a simple three-chord vamp, and he follows the chords closely, and yet still manages to come up with witty, ingenious, melodic twists. And the way he plays with the time! Dragging a phrase, and then ending it right on the beat. Setting up syncopations—accents that go against the beat—and then turning them around, playing them backwards. Then he hits an unexpected high note, and it’s like a shaft of light going right through my body, filling me with warmth. Without even thinking, I cry out—“Yeah!” or “All right!” or something—and I marvel at the way that music, after all these years, can still surprise me.

The guy next to me just goes on munching his cheeseburger. But something special has happened, even if I’m the only one who knows it. The band on the radio are most likely second- or third-generation Puerto Ricans who were raised uptown, way uptown—in the Bronx—in a different world from me. But through the music, they’ve connected with an Englishman way downtown, in a way that would otherwise never happen.

A Cure For Gravity: A Musical Pilgrimage
Joe Jackson

John Cleese’s Two Rules of Writing Comedy

First Rule: Get your panic in early. Fear gives you energy, so make sure you have plenty of time to use that energy. (The same rule applies to exams.)

Second Rule: Your thoughts follow your mood. Anxiety produces anxious thoughts; sadness begets sad thoughts; anger, angry thoughts; so aim to be in a relaxed, playful mood when you try to be funny.

Cleese, John. So, Anyway

Mark Lanegan Memoir – Sing Backwards and Weep

Lanegan had promised a friend, Kitchen Confidential writer Anthony Bourdain, that he would write his memoirs. Bourdain had encouraged him to do a preface to his 2017 lyric collection, I Am the Wolf, loved his writing, and pressed him to do more. “Anthony said, ‘There needs be a level of honesty beyond what you’ll be comfortable with for it not to be some crappy rock autobiography.’ That was the last thing I wanted to do, ever.

Jude Rogers, Guardian
https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/apr/30/mark-lanegan-screaming-trees-kurt-cobain-death-liam-gallagher-sing-backwards-and-weep

Keith Richards on Vietnam and the Sunset Strip in the 60’s

Taking “Street Fighting Man” to the extremes, or “Gimme Shelter.” But without a doubt it was a strange generation. The weird thing is that I grew up with it, but suddenly I’m an observer instead of a participant. I watched all these guys grow up; I watched a lot of them die. When I first got to the States, I met a lot of great guys, young guys, and I had their phone numbers, and then when I got back two or three years later, I’d call them up, and he’s in a body bag from Nam. A whole lot of them got feathered out, we all know. That’s when that shit hit home with me. Hey, that great little blondie, great guitar player, real fun, we had a real good time, and the next time, gone.

Sunset Strip in the ’60s, ’64, ’65—there was no traffic allowed through it. The whole strip was filled with people, and nobody’s going to move for a car. It was almost off-limits. You hung out in the street, you just joined the mob. I remember once Tommy James, from the Shondells—six gold records and blew it all. I was trying to get up to the Whisky a Go Go in a car, and Tommy James came by. “Hey, man.” “And who are you?” “Tommy James, man.” “Crimson and Clover” still hits me. He was trying to hand out things about the draft that day. Because obviously he thought he was about to be fucking drafted. This was Vietnam War time. A lot of the kids that came to see us the first time never got back. Still, they heard the Stones up the Mekong Delta.

Richards, Keith. Life (p. 238). Little, Brown and Company.

Coachwhip snakes, Hoop snakes, and Joint snakes

“Late at night she would tell me about coachwhip snakes, snakes that could wrap themselves around your leg and whip you on the back and shoulders with their platted tails, running you until they ran you to death. Then they would eat you.

And she told me about hoop snakes, snakes that had spiked tails and could form themselves into a hoop and roll after you, up hills and down hills. When they caught you, they’d hit you with the spiky end of their tails and kill you. If the spike missed you and hit a tree instead, the tree would be dead in fifteen minutes, with all the leaves on the ground because that spiky tail held killing poison.

She especially liked to talk about joint snakes, which she sometimes called glass snakes. They were pretty and seemed to be one of the few things in her world that was not deadly. When you hit or touched a joint snake, it would break into pieces about as long as a joint of your finger. It would stay that way until you left and then join itself back together. It didn’t hurt the snake to be knocked apart, and it lived forever.”

A Childhood: The Biography of a Place, Harry Crews

9 American and 1 Canadian, 10 Memoirs From the Last 50 years

NY Times had a thing on the best 50 memoirs of past 50 years.
Here’s my selection, in no particluar order. Blurb/summary from Amazon page.

Duff McKagan – It’s So Easy: and other lies
In his New York Times bestseller, Duff McKagan, founding member of Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver, shares the story of his rise to fame and fortune, his struggles with alcoholism and drug addiction, his personal crash and burn, and his life-saving transformation via a unique path to sobriety.

Belinda Carlisle – Lips Unsealed: A Memoir
The women of the iconic eighties band the Go-Go’s will always be remembered as they appeared on the back of their debut record: sunny, smiling, each soaking in her own private bubble bath with chocolates and champagne. The photo is a perfect tribute to the fun, irreverent brand of pop music that the Go-Go’s created, but it also conceals the trials and secret demons that the members of the group—and, in particular, its lead singer, Belinda Carlisle—struggled with on their rise to stardom.

Henry Louis Gates – Colored People: A Memoir
In a coming-of-age story as enchantingly vivid and ribald as anything Mark Twain or Zora Neale Hurston, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., recounts his childhood in the mill town of Piedmont, West Virginia, in the 1950s and 1960s and ushers readers into a gossip, of lye-and-mashed-potato “processes,” and of slyly stubborn resistance to the indignities of segregation.

Leonard Michaels – Time Out of Mind: The Diaries of Leonard Michaels 1961-1995
The critically acclaimed author of The Men’s Club shares a collection of observations, meditations, and confidences drawn from more than thirty years of journals that capture the inner world of a man struggling to balance his diverse roles as husband, friend, lover, father, and writer.

Anatole Broyard – Kafka Was the Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir
What Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast did for Paris in the 1920s, this charming yet undeceivable memoir does for Greenwich Village in the late 1940s. In 1946, Anatole Broyard was a dapper, earnest, fledgling avant-gardist, intoxicated by books, sex, and the neighborhood that offered both in such abundance. Stylish written, mercurially witty, imbued with insights that are both affectionate and astringent, this memoir offers an indelible portrait of a lost bohemia.

Tobias Wolff – In Pharaoh’s Army: Memories of the Lost War
Whether he is evoking the blind carnage of the Tet offensive, the theatrics of his fellow Americans, or the unraveling of his own illusions, Wolff brings to this work the same uncanny eye for detail, pitiless candor and mordant wit that made This Boy’s Life a modern classic.

Bill German  – Under Their Thumb: How a Nice Boy from Brooklyn Got Mixed Up with the Rolling Stones (and Lived to Tell About It)
As a teenager, Bill German knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life: chronicle the career and adventures of his favorite rock band, the Rolling Stones. And in 1978, on his sixteenth birthday, he set out to make his dream a reality. Feverishly typed in his Brooklyn bedroom, and surreptitiously printed in his high school’s mimeograph room German’s Stones-only newsletter, Beggars Banquet, was born. His teachers discouraged it, his parents dismissed it as a phase, and his disco-loving classmates preferred the Bee Gees, but, for German, this primitive, pre-Internet fanzine was a labor of love. And a fateful encounter with his idols on the streets of New York soon proved his efforts weren’t in vain.

Paul Shaffer – We’ll Be Here For the Rest of Our Lives: A Swingin’ Show-biz Saga
Paul Shaffer—born and bred music junkie and longtime leader of David Letterman’s Late Show band—opens up in this candid, endearing, hilarious, and star-studded memoir.  From playing seedy strip joints in Toronto, to being the first musical director of Saturday Night Live and helping to form the Blues Brothers, to being onstage every night with David Letterman and playing with the greatest musicians of our time, Shaffer has lived the ultimate showbiz life.  Now—dishing on everyone from John Belushi and Jerry Lewis to Mel Gibson and Britney Spears—Paul gives us the full behind-the-scenes story of his life, from banging out pop tunes on the piano at the age of twelve to leading the band every night at the Sullivan Theater.

Mark Salzman – True Notebooks: A Writer’s Year at Juvenile Hall
In 1997 Mark Salzman, bestselling author Iron and Silk and Lying Awake, paid a reluctant visit to a writing class at L.A.’s Central Juvenile Hall, a lockup for violent teenage offenders, many of them charged with murder. What he found so moved and astonished him that he began to teach there regularly. In voices of indelible emotional presence, the boys write about what led them to crime and about the lives that stretch ahead of them behind bars. We see them coming to terms with their crime-ridden pasts and searching for a reason to believe in their future selves. Insightful, comic, honest and tragic, True Notebooks is an object lesson in the redemptive power of writing.

Adam Carolla – Not Taco Bell Material
Funnyman Adam Carolla is known for two things: hilarious rants about things that drive him crazy and personal stories about everything from his hardscrabble childhood to his slacker friends to the hypocrisy of Hollywood. He tackled rants in his first book, and now he tells his best stories and debuts some never-before-heard tales as well. Organized by the myriad “dumps” Carolla called home—through the flophouse apartments he rented in his twenties, up to the homes he personally renovated after achieving success in Hollywood—the anecdotes here follow Adam’s journey and the hilarious pitfalls along the way.