The intention has been to keep things positive, and with a few exceptions, I think I’ve managed to do so. That said, I must warn you. There’s no covering up, the novel pictured on the left provides nothing the jacket claims. The story is not “hilarious,” nor is it “subversively compelling.” I’d like to meet this guy’s publicist and friends who said so. Since I’ve fallen into mostly awesome stuff in the 2009 in Books project, I was bound to eventually be deceived by a cleverly-titled book that offered little reward.
#39 was simply a let-down from the get-go. Let’s face it. A story about an arsonist burning down Emily Dickinson’s house simply has to deliver. Why then, couldn’t it have? The long-winded Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England would have surely benefitted from a few more drafts, whittling-down the narrator’s excessive descriptions, adding more intriguing characterizations, or maybe just finding a clearer direction in general. As a reader, it’s never enjoyable to have things repeatedly spelled out for you as if you don’t have a brain. The narrator is boring, flat, wholly unlikeable, and his dumbing-down of every event turns out to be less a device and more uninspired writing. I hurts when you realize that this Brock Clarke was surely capable to do so much more!
There are a few moments of payoff, like one memorable exchange between the narrator and the person whose parents happened to die in the Dickinson house fire. This very painful moment, and maybe a few others, are why I feel sort of bad for ranting about how unenjoyable this one was. There’s certainly lousier fiction out there to be read. I’ve just been fortune enough to avoid the stuff this year.
I’m pleasantly surprised to hear that he’ll be delivering some new music. A new Discover America release, titled “Future Paths,” should be on the horizon, along with a follow-up to the stripped-down “Blackest Hair, Bluest Eyes” solo release. Did I say I can’t wait?
The cover art reminds me of a TV I used to watch cartoons on while eating breakfast at my grandma’s:
My wonderful professor, Kerry Madden, has a story in the L.A. Times today about the difficulties accompanying her recent move from California to Alabama. I think I should assure her that, in seven or so years, I have not decided between Auburn and Alabama. Nor will I ever.
Check out Kerry’s story. Excerpt:
Another apartment we checked out was in a gated community that boasted “Virgin Margaritaville Night” and a location handy to Chick-fil-A. We also considered Fannie Flagg’s nearby neighborhood of Irondale out of homage to “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe,” but from the back seat, Norah gazed at the faux train depot and announced, “I feel empty inside.”
I’ve been taking my sweet time getting around to the last few books I’ve read. So once again, it’s time to play catch up. A few notes about this one have been sitting on my desktop for close to two weeks. It feels like Hank has been quietly reminding me not to forget about him.
I certainly enjoyed #38. I’ve always loved the man’s songs, and even visited his grave once on a trip through Montgomery to take photos. What makes Lovesick Blues: The Life of Hank Williams a winner might be the author’s genuine enthusiasm for the topic. He breathes new light into an old story, to tell us about the famous abusive alcoholic who predated rock and roll by nearly a decade. In ways HW built the rock legend archetype from the ground up, dabbling in affairs, bad marriages, and often being too intoxicated perform, if he showed up at all.
Little did I know before this book how autobiographical every song happened to be. With only “three chords and the truth,” Hank wrote songs with titles like “Why Don’t You Love Me (Like You Used To Do),” bringing country music into the forefront of popular culture. It’s also interesting how a black street performer taught him how to play the blues as a child. As the author notes, ”If (Hank) had a genius, it was simplicity.”
As an artist, Hank Williams made suffering enjoyable. Out of the 66 songs he recorded, he wrote 50 himself. He grew up fast, and died young (and as Minnie Pearl and June Carter both noted, they all figured it was coming any day). This one is fully recommendation to anyone mildly interest in the subject.
“The eskimos had 52 words for snow because it was important to them. There ought to be as many for love.”
— Margaret Atwood
Get excited. There’s a posthumous collection of unpublished Vonnegut stories coming out next month.
Here’s the strange artwork, illustrated by the man himself no doubt, for Look at the Birdie:
Around the release of the new book, Delacourte Press will also be re-releasing many of the others. While not mind-blowing, these simply-designed covers newer seem to have a bit more in their favor than the boring outstretched “V” editions from the late-nineties.
I never liked it when Jay-Z announced his retirement, only to immediately return. But with Kurt I can only greet this decision with enthusiasm.