Preference Personnelle
Friday, May 14
Here are some books I've enjoyed in the past few months, and some that I hope to get back to another time. To paraphrase I-think-it-was-Groucho-Marx, I've been not reading so many books lately that I haven't had time to get around to not reading these. (These are all Amazon referrer links, for crying out loud. Hit me--I need the money.)

Books I've read recently:

Michael Jackson: Unauthorized, by Christopher Anderson. Combine this with J. Randy Tarraborelli's fairly fawning Michael Jackson: The Music and the Madness, and the sum might be something resembling a fair treatment. (Skip Freak! Inside the Twisted World of Michael Jackson--it's pretty bad.) Anderson's book is from '94, after the first molestation allegations but before the current crop.

The Hungry Gene: The Science of Fat and the Future of Thin, by Ellen Ruppel Shell. It's not quite as good as Greg Critser's Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World, or for that matter Eric Schlosser's wonderful Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, but it's still a very worthwhile read for people interested in the topic, and perhaps more even-handed than the other two titles I mentioned.

Growing Up Fast, by Joanna Lipper. Besides its obvious utility to teenagers as a birth-control device, this is a poignant and well-written piece of journalism. It's got a blurb from Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, whose Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble and Coming of Age in the Bronx is another very good book along similar lines. Another blurbist compares it to Winesburg, Ohio, and Nelson George (who also wrote a book about Michael Jackson) compares it to 8 Mile. What kind of book has blurbs from Nelson George and Naomi Wolf? A good one. And speaking of Eminem:

Whatever You Say I Am: The Life and Times of Eminem, by Anthony Bozza, is the best book I've seen about the man. I have little doubt that it's the best one ever written. That's small praise, certainly, and I'm waiting on an interlibrary loan of White Noise: The Eminem Collection, a critical anthology edited by Hilton Als and Darryl A. Turner, which looks like a strong contender for the title. On the other hand, I feel confident that Byron 'Big Naz' Williams' Shady Bizzness : Life as Marshall Mathers' Bodyguard in an Industry of Paper Gangsters is even worse than Frank Alexander's Got Your Back: The Life of a Bodyguard in the Hardcore World of Gangsta Rap. At least Alexander spells 'gangsta' right. The bodyguard memoir isn't what I'd call a rich literary genre.

Ghetto Celebrity: Searching for My Father in Me, by Donnell Alexander. Wonderful, lyrical autobiography from the man who wrote 'Why Black People Are Cooler than White People,' anthologized in both Step Into a World: A Global Anthology of the New Black Literature (edited by Real-Worlder Kevin Powell) and the Might magazine collection Shiny Adidas Tracksuits and the Death of Camp and Other Essays (full-text in the first link).

Songs in the Key of Black Life: A Rhythm and Blues Nation, by Mark Anthony Neal. There's no getting around it--I think Neal is brilliant. While I'm at it, I'll also recommend his What the Music Said: Black Music and Black Public Culture, and Joan Morgan's When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: My Life as a Hip-Hop Feminist.

Mercy, Mercy Me: The Art, Loves and Demons of Marvin Gaye, by Michael Eric Dyson. Dyson rocks my socks. Not long ago, I plugged his Tupac book, Holler if You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur. This book is even better. While I'm on the subject, David Ritz's Marvin Gaye bio, Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye, is still the canonical one, but the recent Trouble Man: The Life and Death of Marvin Gaye, by Steve Turner (not the guy from Mudhoney), is also very good. I'll also mention Nelson George's Where Did Our Love Go: The Rise and Fall of the Motown Sound, while I'm thinking about it. George is all over this thing.

Nothing Feels Good: Punk Rock, Teenagers and Emo, by Andy Greenwald. I'm as comfortable on the emo-bashing bandwagon as the next guy, but this is a good read--more sociocultural criticism than music journalism, and that's fine with me. Read it for a much better understanding of what emo means and only a slightly better impression of what it sounds like.

Hollywood Animal: A Memoir, by Joe Eszterhas. Do you like Joe Eszterhas? You'll likely also enjoy his American Rhapsody. Do you like sleazy tell-all Hollywood memoirs? Allow me to recommend Robert Evans' The Kid Stays in the Picture (there's also a documentary, and why isn't Kid Notorious on DVD?), and Julia Phillips' You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again and Driving Under the Affluence: The Secret of My Excess. Along similar lines, there's also Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock 'n' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood, which I've read, and his recent Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film, which really belongs in the next list.

Books I hope to read soon:

Nanocosm: Nanotechnology and the Big Changes Coming from the Inconceivably Small, by William Illsey Atkinson. My body of knowledge of nanotechnology, alas, could also be described with the phrase 'inconceivably small.' One of the blurbs compares Atkinson to Richard Feynman. Which reminds me--there ought to be a website that keeps track of who's writing blurbs for whom. That's a network I'd like to see diagrammed.

Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror, by Richard A. Clarke. There are a lot of library patrons on the hold list for this one--I'm going to bump myself to the back of the list and let them have a shot at it.

Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends and Other Realities of Adolescence, by Rosalind Wiseman. Supposedly a large part of the impetus behind Mean Girls, and it's gotten mostly excellent reviews besides. In the same vein, I also keep meaning to read Rachel Simmons' Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls.

Against Love: A Polemic, by Laura Kipnis. I like a polemic (I also like polenta). Kipnis is the author of Bound and Gagged: Pornography and the Politics of Fantasy in America, which is up there with Nadine Strossen's Defending Pornography: Free Speech, Sex and the Fight for Women's Rights among the best books about pornography I've read.

Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina and Richard Farina, by David Hajdu. (Not to be confused with James McManus' Positively Fifth Street: Murderers, Cheetahs and Binion's World Series of Poker, as if anybody would. But if you like that book, you may also enjoy Ben Mezrich's Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions.) I have no idea why I haven't read this yet, just like I have no idea why I haven't read Larry 'Ratso' Sloman's On the Road with Bob Dylan (he's also written a few other Dylan books, and Reefer Madness: A History of Marijuana), or seen Mickey Jones' Bob Dylan - World Tour 1966: The Home Movies. I am reminded of a lame expression about so many books and so little time. How does it go again?
re: lame expressions: we buy books because we believe that we are purchasing the time to read them?

re: fatness: there was a lengthy "oh yeah?" recently at the Guardian:,3605,1200549,00.html

re: chick v. chick action: add "Woman's inhumanity to Woman" in there, too.

I myself continue to clutch the 2 newest volumes of The Comics Journal, A Brief History of Paradox, the screenplay to The Grey Zone (thanks to Mimi), Sala's Maniac Killer Strikes Again, the latest volume of Blab!, and the yummy A Chance Meeting.
If I ever get caught up, I covet the Stack-o-lee book.

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