Not staring at my iPhone for hours on end as I scroll through various social media feeds has opened up a lot of free time for me. More than I was really expecting. (Being in a typical December work lull certainly helps too.) Which is why I finally started getting some reading done after a long...long...long hiatus from getting through any book that I wasn't reviewing. (Been watching a bunch of movies too, but you can track my progress on that front here.) So, while I've got a few minutes, I thought I'd blog a bit about the books I've finished this month.
Girl In A Band by Kim Gordon I think my friend Colin had the right feeling about this book: it felt like the product of someone hurrying to tell the story about her marriage's demise before the other party piped in. Even with that, this hardly felt like a book. It was scattered memories from Gordon's life that only cohered because she was the central figure in all of them. More than anything, it felt like a weird excuse to drop as many names of famous or soon-to-be famous people that she bedded or collaborated with. As much fun as it was to learn that Gordon had an on-again/off-again thing going with Danny Elfman, I would have much rather she kept the same tone and emotion that was evident in the sections about her troubled older brother. The big selling point (if you can call it that) where she goes over the affair that ended her marriage felt as tawdry as the pictures of Thurston's mistress that she found. I didn't really need to know any of it. The whole thing was sad and pointless...kind of like this book as a whole.
Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History Of Grunge by Mark Yarm A perfectly constructed history of a genre that has been raked over the coals, over-analyzed, and often needlessly deified. By staying out of the way and letting the artists and label owners and other figures on the scene tell the story, Yarm truly brought the bizarre rise and fall of the Seattle scene as cultural landmark to life. An even smarter decision was taking the time to do the follow up interviews that would allow for certain people to argue and contradict what other people said about events or rumors. The sections on Candlebox were particularly potent in revealing how the music industry fed off the lifeblood of that scene and turned some young musicians into thirsty vampires.
Don't Thank Me All At Once: The Lost Pop Genius of Scott Miller by Brett Milano Someday soon there will be a dutifully dense biography written about the late Scott Miller, the leader of the cult pop bands Game Theory and The Loud Family. Until then, we have this book which was, according to the foreword, built off of a failed 33 1/3 proposal and hurried into existence following the suicide of its subject. For the uninitiated, this is a decent place to begin your studies into Miller's singular musical visions and his apparently troubled inner life. What you don't get are any great insights into his songwriting (Milano keeps referring to the brilliance of his lyrics and the cross-referencing knottiness of the albums, but never really offers up any examples) nor the kind of insight from the people that knew him that longtime fans would really want (it is quickly apparent that Milano conducted many of these interviews via email which very, very rarely read as well as we hope they will).
High-Status Characters: How The Upright Citizens Brigade Stormed A City, Started A Scene, And Changed Comedy Forever by Brian Raftery Again, a book that succeeds if you have a good working knowledge of the practices of long-form improvisation and of the people central to the UCB world. Choosing to do this as an oral history feels like a cop out as this could have used a lot of fleshing out to go along with the great quotes from various improvisors and comics that helped build the theater and did some particularly unsavory stuff within its walls. And when the story gets to the point where UCB opens a theater in L.A., the whole thing just peters out. Would love to see Raftery or another author take his raw materials and use them to build a bigger and better history of this theater and the original troupe.