Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Grab bag

Here's some quick reviews of what I've been reading over the last week or so....

Peter Greenberg: DON'T GO THERE! (2009) -- Greenberg is the Travel Editor for NBC's TODAY SHOW. His book was filed in the Humor section of my favorite local used book store, so I thought it might be funny. It wasn't. Basically, Greenberg spends 250 pages warning you about lots of places NOT to visit in your travels, all of which illustrate Karl Malden's First Rule Of Travel: Don't Leave Home. I can see where Greenberg might be funny on TV, but after the first couple chapters warning you away from Chernobyl, Bhopal and Love Canal, it all gets kind of dull.
I was also shocked that none of the places I've lived made any of Greenberg's "Must Avoid" lists. Ankara, Turkey didn't make it into the Top 10 for Worst Air. Worland, Wyoming didn't come anywhere near Most Boring. And Washington didn't break into the Top 10 Suicide States -- though Wyoming did....

Richard Burton: DIARIES (2012) -- A former big-time actor, Rich had all the same problems as the rest of us lower-earners: Hating his job, being bored, not wanting to be around most people, and whether he should buy ANOTHER million-dollar diamond ring for his wife. His diaries are surprisingly readable, very good waking-up reading. I was reminded in places of another actor's diaries published a decade or two back, Charlton Heston's AN ACTOR'S LIFE. But Burton goes into more depth -- when he's in the mood, and not drinking heavily. And it's interesting how much stuff he pours out onto the page when he's happy with his wife Liz. When she's not around, he pretty much clams up. Parts of the book are laugh-out-loud funny, but there's 650 pages of it.

Alice Sebold: LUCKY (1999) -- It takes me awhile to Get things, sometimes: The Cars, Madonna, Prince. Sebold was quite a publishing sensation a decade or so back when she published the Number 1 bestselling novel THE LOVELY BONES. This memoir came first: It tells how Sebold was beaten and raped while a student at Syracuse University. It is brutal, shocking, and absolutely riveting to read. You THINK the toughest, hardest-to-read part of the story is right up front. And it IS tough. But more shocking stuff follows. There are signs that Sebold maybe didn't know where to END her memoir, but it was worth the trip. She was lucky that she was a strong and quirky person, and she's doubly lucky that her family was a bunch of fruit loops who stood behind her and helped her hold her life together.

Pat O'Day and Jim Ojala: IT WAS ALL JUST ROCK AND ROLL (second edition, 2003) -- O'Day was a disc jockey and station manager for Seattle's KJR AM in the '60s, back in the days when that station was one of the premiere AM stations in the country. His descriptions of what it was like to work in radio back in those days are unique, solid and enjoyable, and when he talks theory about what he -- as a manager -- thought made for an enjoyable AM station and talented AM DJ's, he's on solid ground. I still think there's a great book waiting to be written about working in AM radio in the '50s and '60s, and O'Day has a good start on it here.
But this isn't the book. Much of O'Day's rock-'n'-roll history-writing is from the first-the-earth-cooled-then-the-dinosaurs-came school, and his stories about hanging out with rock stars (Jimi Hendrix, The Beach Boys, Three Dog Night, more) aren't funny or revealing (even the story about Hendrix returning to his alma mater, Seattle's Garfield High School), they're just kind of sad.
O'Day writes ONE PAGE about his alcohol problem -- the cure for which he's been doing radio and TV commercials about in the Seattle area for a decade. There was maybe the basis for another book there -- but O'Day says he was a happy drunk, and that all his friends and co-workers agreed with him....
There are other problems. Glen Campbell and Ahmet Ertegun are among the well-known names who get their names misspelled more than once. Pat sometimes writes women (plural) when he means woman (singular) -- this also happens more than once.
This is the updated second edition of Pat's book. It looks great, and there are some nice black-and-white photos of Hendrix, Elvis, The Rolling Stones, Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Mamas and Papas, The Lovin' Spoonful, and other stars who played in Seattle. But did anyone proofread the book?

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