Tag: Recommendation

Turn Every Page – The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb

Turn Every Page explores the remarkable fifty-year relationship between two literary legends, writer Robert Caro and his longtime editor Robert Gottlieb. Now 86, Caro is working to complete the final volume of his masterwork, The Years of Lyndon Johnson; Gottlieb, 91, waits to edit it. The task of finishing their life’s work looms before them. With humor and insight, this unique double portrait reveals the work habits, peculiarities and professional joys of these two ferocious intellects at the culmination of a journey that has consumed both their lives and impacted generations of politicians, activists, writers, and readers.

5 Best Books of 2022

Selections mine, blurbs via Amazon.
See also: 5 Best Books of 2021

Scenes from My Life
Michael K Williams
When Michael K. Williams died on September 6, 2021, he left behind a career as one of the most electrifying actors of his generation. From his star turn as Omar Little in The Wire to Chalky White in Boardwalk Empire to Emmy-nominated roles in HBO’s The Night Of and Lovecraft Country, Williams inhabited a slew of indelible roles that he portrayed with a rawness and vulnerability that leapt off the screen. Beyond the nominations and acclaim, Williams played characters who connected, whose humanity couldn’t be denied, whose stories were too often left out of the main narrative.

At the time of his death, Williams had nearly finished a memoir that tells the story of his past while looking to the future, a book that merges his life and his life’s work. Mike, as his friends knew him, was so much more than an actor. In Scenes from My Life, he traces his life in whole, from his childhood in East Flatbush and his early years as a dancer to his battles with addiction and the bar fight that left his face with his distinguishing scar. He was a committed Brooklyn resident and activist who dedicated his life to working with social justice organizations and his community, especially in helping at-risk youth find their voice and carve out their future. Williams worked to keep the spotlight on those he fought for and with, whom he believed in with his whole heart.

No One Round Here Reads Tolstoy
Mark Hodkinson
Mark Hodkinson grew up among dark satanic mills in a house with just one book: Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain. His dad kept it on top of a wardrobe with other items of great worth – wedding photographs and Mark’s National Cycling Proficiency certificate. If Mark wanted to read it, he was warned not to crease the pages or slam shut the covers.

Fast forward to today, and Mark still lives in Rochdale snugly ensconced (or is that buried?) in a ‘book cave’ surrounded by 3,500 titles – at the last count. He is an author, journalist and publisher.

So this is his story of growing up a working-class lad during the 1970s and 1980s. It’s about schools (bad), music (good) and the people (some mad, a few sane), and pre-eminently and profoundly the books and authors (some bad, mostly good) that led the way, shaped a life. If only coincidentally, it relates how writing and reading has changed, as the Manor House novel gave way to the kitchen sink drama and working-class writers found the spotlight (if only briefly).

Fiona and Jane
Jean Chen Ho
Best friends since second grade, Fiona Lin and Jane Shen explore the lonely freeways and seedy bars of Los Angeles together through their teenage years, surviving unfulfilling romantic encounters, and carrying with them the scars of their families’ tumultuous pasts. Fiona was always destined to leave, her effortless beauty burnished by fierce ambition—qualities that Jane admired and feared in equal measure. When Fiona moves to New York and cares for a sick friend through a breakup with an opportunistic boyfriend, Jane remains in California and grieves her estranged father’s sudden death, in the process alienating an overzealous girlfriend. Strained by distance and unintended betrayals, the women float in and out of each other’s lives, their friendship both a beacon of home and a reminder of all they’ve lost.

In stories told in alternating voices, Jean Chen Ho’s debut collection peels back the layers of female friendship—the intensity, resentment, and boundless love—to probe the beating hearts of young women coming to terms with themselves, and each other, in light of the insecurities and shame that holds them back.

Spanning countries and selves, Fiona and Jane is an intimate portrait of a friendship, a deep dive into the universal perplexities of being young and alive, and a bracingly honest account of two Asian women who dare to stake a claim on joy in a changing, contemporary America.

Longshot
David Heath
In Longshot, investigative journalist David Heath takes readers inside the small group of scientists whose groundbreaking work was once largely dismissed but whose feat will now eclipse the importance of Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine in medical history. With never-before-reported details, Heath reveals how these scientists overcame countless obstacles to give the world an unprecedented head start when we needed a COVID-19 vaccine.

The story really begins in the 1990s, with a series of discoveries that were timed perfectly to prepare us for the worst pandemic since 1918. Readers will meet Katalin Karikó, who made it possible to use messenger RNA in vaccines but struggled for years just to hang on to her job. There’s also Derrick Rossi, who leveraged Karikó’s work to found Moderna but was eventually expelled from his company. And then there’s Barney Graham at the National Institutes of Health, who had a career-long obsession with solving the riddle of why two toddlers died in a vaccine trial in 1966, a tragedy that ultimately led to a critical breakthrough in vaccine science.
With both foresight and luck, Graham and these other crucial scientists set the course for a coronavirus vaccine years before COVID-19 emerged in Wuhan, China. The author draws on hundreds of hours of interviews with key players to tell the definitive story about how the race to create the vaccine sparked a revolution in medical science.

The Man Who Broke Capitalism
David Gelles
In 1981, Jack Welch took over General Electric and quickly rose to fame as the first celebrity CEO. He golfed with presidents, mingled with movie stars, and was idolized for growing GE into the most valuable company in the world. But Welch’s achievements didn’t stem from some greater intelligence or business prowess. Rather, they were the result of a sustained effort to push GE’s stock price ever higher, often at the expense of workers, consumers, and innovation. In this captivating, revelatory book, David Gelles argues that Welch single-handedly ushered in a new, cutthroat era of American capitalism that continues to this day.

Gelles chronicles Welch’s campaign to vaporize hundreds of thousands of jobs in a bid to boost profits, eviscerating the country’s manufacturing base and destabilizing the middle class. Welch’s obsession with downsizing—he eliminated 10% of employees every year—fundamentally altered GE and inspired generations of imitators who have employed his strategies at other companies around the globe. In his day, Welch was corporate America’s leading proponent of mergers and acquisitions, using deals to gobble up competitors and giving rise to an economy that is more concentrated and less dynamic. And Welch pioneered the dark arts of “financialization,” transforming GE from an admired industrial manufacturer into what was effectively an unregulated bank. The finance business was hugely profitable in the short term and helped Welch keep GE’s stock price ticking up. But ultimately, financialization undermined GE and dozens of other Fortune 500 companies.

Gelles shows how Welch’s celebrated emphasis on increasing shareholder value by any means necessary (layoffs, outsourcing, offshoring, acquisitions, and buybacks, to name but a few tactics) became the norm in American business generally. He demonstrates how that approach has led to the greatest socioeconomic inequality since the Great Depression and harmed many of the very companies that have embraced it. And he shows how a generation of Welch acolytes radically transformed companies like Boeing, Home Depot, Kraft Heinz, and more. Finally, Gelles chronicles the change that is now afoot in corporate America, highlighting companies and leaders who have abandoned Welchism and are proving that it is still possible to excel in the business world without destroying livelihoods, gutting communities, and spurning regulation.

Sometimes Like is Better than Love, Drugs Aren’t What They Used to be – Couple Keith Richards Observations

I’ve been saved by chicks more times than by guys. Sometimes just that little hug and kiss and nothing else happens. Just keep me warm for the night, just hold on to each other when times are hard, times are rough.
And I’d say, “Fuck, why are you bothering with me when you know I’m an asshole and I’ll be gone tomorrow?” “I don’t know. I guess you’re worth it.” “Well, I’m not going to argue.” The first time I encountered that was with these little English chicks up in the north, on that first tour. You end up, after the show, at a pub or the bar of the hotel, and suddenly you’re in the room with some very sweet chick who’s going to Sheffield University and studying sociology who decides to be really nice to you. “I thought you were a smart chick. I’m a guitar player. I’m just going through town.” “Yeah, but I like you.” Liking is sometimes better than loving.

Richards, Keith. Life (p. 130). Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.

Don’t try this at home. Even I can’t do it anymore; they don’t make them the same. They suddenly decided in the mid-’70s that they would make downers that would put you to sleep without the high. I would raid the lockers of the world to find some more barbiturates. No doubt somewhere in the Middle East, in Europe, I could find some. I love my downers. I was so hyper all the time that I needed to suppress myself. If you didn’t want to go to sleep and just enjoy the buzz, you just stood up for a little bit and listened to some music. It had character. That’s what I would say about barbiturates. Character. Every man who is worth his salt in downers knows what I’m talking about. And even that wouldn’t put me down; that would keep me on a level. To me, the sensible drugs in the world are the pure ones. Tuinals, Seconals, Nembutals. Desbutal was probably one of the best that there ever was, a capsule in a weird red and cream color. They were better than later versions, which acted on the central nervous system. You could piss them out in twenty-four hours; they didn’t hang on to your nerve endings.

Richards, Keith. Life (p. 249). Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.

Highly recommended

The Summer of a Dormouse – Byron quote

When one subtracts from life infancy (which is vegetation) – sleep, eating and swilling – buttoning and unbuttoning – how much remains of downright existence? The summer of a dormouse…

Quote found in Kenneth Tynan’s Diaries, 16 November, 1972

Byron has given me the perfect title for an autobiography if I ever write one: The Summer of a Dormouse. It’s from a letter:
When one subtracts from life infancy (which is vegetation) – sleep, eating and swilling – buttoning and unbuttoning – how much remains of downright existence? The summer of a dormouse…

The Diaries of Kenneth Tynan

(Highly recommended book)

Chekhovian – Michael Blakemore on

The sort of production I aspired to was the very opposite of what at the time was conveyed by the adjective ‘Chekhovian’. Though the plays may leave you with a sense of the sadness and bleakness of life, this is not what they describe. Chekhov’s characters are for ever on the hunt for amusement of some sort, anything to distract them from the underlying drift of their lives. They play games, stage amateur theatricals, enjoy magic shows, or just sit under the trees in the garden having long circular conversations over their tea. And they are always offering each other hospitality. The first two acts of Three Sisters are both extended parties, and the most spectacular party of all, the most absurd, is the ball given by Ranevsky in The Cherry Orchard on the day she and her brother put the family home up for auction. Her social equals who would normally have attended such an occasion have all moved away from the district or died. However, so determined is she to cheer herself up with music and company that she makes up the numbers of guests by inviting such people as the Postal Clerk and the Stationmaster. This is surely as funny as it is tragic, and suggests that the playwright was not joking when he described the play as a comedy. Walk past a London pub on a warm summer night, with customers spilling on to the pavement: the intense and jubilant buzz of people absorbed in the pursuit of a good time blocks out any thought that for some of these same people (and for all of us eventually) winter is not far away. Chekhov allows us, unlike the pub’s customers, to see both these realities at once.

Stage Blood: Five tempestuous years in the early life of the National Theatre
Michael Blakemore

David Bowie – Considerate and Supportive Guy

Bruce Robb:
He was partying, having fun, but then during that period everybody was doing coke. It was unbelievable. He wasn’t close to the worst of the lot. I mean, I worked with Harry Nilsson for thirteen months, and that was tough. He was just doing what everybody else was doing. He was such a gentleman. He’d even pick up the trash after his sessions, which I’ve never seen another artist do, especially one of David Bowie’s stature. He would say it was his session so he should clear it up. He’d send Christmas cards every year, which looked like he’d made them himself.

Paul Smith:
… One time, a friend of mine’s eighteen-year-old son needed a suit, so he brought him into the Floral Street store. The boy tried the suit on, came out of the changing room, and looked into the big mirror we had. At the same time, the door to one of the other changing rooms opened and out walked David. “Wow, you look great!” he said to the kid. “You look really great, man!” And this boy nearly passed out, he went pale white! Nearly fainted! That was just David. He seemed to pop up everywhere.

David Bowie: The Oral History
Dylan Jones

(Excellent book. Highly recommended.)

Kurt Cobain Remembrance in the New Yorker

Kurt, being a student of rock history, knew that the story of a rock band is essentially a legend—in the sense that there’s some wiggle room in the truth as long as it serves the over-all myth. So Kurt was an unreliable narrator of his own story. That’s nothing new—it would be hard to name any rock star who wasn’t the same. It’s up to the journalist to determine what’s true and what isn’t. But sometimes journalists play along because they’re naïve, lazy, or overworked, or they want to be in on the game because it makes for sensational copy. Whatever the reason, it works to the artist’s advantage. I wasn’t rigorous about investigating Kurt’s mythologizing—for one thing, a tight deadline meant that I just didn’t have the time, and, for another, he had charmed me and I unquestioningly bought a lot of his tall tales—which turned out well for him.

The second night was a repeat of the first: me and a guy reading the book I wrote about him, in a generic little hotel room, punctuated by the rustle of paper and the occasional grunt of appreciation or soft chuckle. He told me it was illuminating to read about his entire life in chronological order. Very few people have that luxury. Sometimes he’d take a break, and we’d stand together by the window overlooking Fourth Avenue and talk, eat cookies, or look down to the street, where little gangs of homeless kids swarmed around taxis stopped at red lights, trying to wangle a few bucks out of the cabbies. During those breaks, we didn’t speak about the book—instead, we talked about people we knew in common, music we were listening to, or politics. Sometimes we’d just stare out the window at the city without saying anything at all.

My Time with Kurt Cobain
Michael Azerrad

I didn’t read the Cobain book, but I did read this one by Azerrad and recommend it:
Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981-1991

5 Best Movies of 2021

5 movies I saw this past year and recommend, blurbs via IMDB.

Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)

Feature documentary about the legendary 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival which celebrated African American music and culture, and promoted Black pride and unity.

Licorice Pizza

The story of Alana Kane and Gary Valentine growing up, running around and going through the treacherous navigation of first love in the San Fernando Valley, 1973.

Nightmare Alley

An ambitious carny with a talent for manipulating people with a few well-chosen words hooks up with a female psychiatrist who is even more dangerous than he is.

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain

A documentary about Anthony Bourdain and his career as a chef, writer and host, revered and renowned for his authentic approach to food, culture and travel.

Dune

Feature adaptation of Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel about the son of a noble family entrusted with the protection of the most valuable asset and most vital element in the galaxy.

5 Movies I Saw in 2021 that Weren’t Released in 2021

5 movies that I watched this year and recommend. Blurbs via Amazon.

My Dinner with Andre – 1981

In Louis Malle’s captivating and philosophical My Dinner with André, actor and playwright Wallace Shawn sits down with friend and theater director André Gregory at an Upper West Side restaurant, and the two proceed into an alternately whimsical and despairing confessional on love, death, money, and all the superstition in between.

The Source Family – 2013

The Source Family’s outlandish lifestyle made them the darlings of Hollywood; but their outsider ideals and spiritual leader, Father Yod, caused controversy with local authorities.

The Overnighters  – 2014

A modern-day Grapes of Wrath, award-winning documentary THE OVERNIGHTERS is a portrait of job-seekers desperately chasing the American Dream to the tiny oil boom town of Williston, North Dakota.

Bad Times at the El Royale – 2018

Several strangers meet up at a rundown Lake Tahoe hotel in 1969 for a violent and fateful night filled with wild twists and turns.

Collective – 2020

Follow a heroic team of journalists as they uncover shocking corruption in the Romanian national healthcare system. Take an up-close look as the Gazette team methodically discovers layer upon layer of unbridled fraud and criminal malfeasance.