The Williamsburg Book Club Message Board › TIME TO VOTE: NOVEMBER
The poll to vote for November's selection is up until next Monday morning (10/03). Descriptions below. Vote here.
1. Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Gillian McCain (488 pages)
Though Britain's notorious Sex Pistols shoved punk rock into the face of mainstream America, the movement was already brewing in the U.S. in the 1960s with bands like the Velvet Underground and Iggy and the Stooges. Through hundreds of interviews with forgotten bands as well as the ones that made names for themselves--including Blondie and the Ramones--Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain chronicle punk rock history through the people who really lived it. Please Kill Me is a thrash down memory lane for those hip to punk's early years and an enlightening history lesson for youngsters interested in the origins of modern "alternative" music.
2. Love Warps the Mind a Little by John Dufresne (320 pages)
Lafayette Proulx is affectionately called Laf by his friends, and with good reason. As the likeable narrator of John Dufresne's terrific new book Love Warps the Mind a Little, Laf has an eye for the comic elements that can be found in the everyday events of life, and an armchair philosopher's sense of detached bemusement. Laf quits his day job and decides to pursue his dream of writing fiction, a move precipitated by the breakup of his marriage and followed by a torrent of rejection slips. He moves in with his hesitant girlfriend Judi, and for a time, the story sets into a domestic story of befuddled affection and incidental affairs. Suddenly, Judi is diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and from here on out, Love Warps the Mind a Little becomes a stunning love story, sweetly moving in its description of love amid tragic circumstances. Its honesty and insight are wonderful and the comic elements are never lost. The highly acclaimed author of Louisiana Power & Light has met the high expectations of his critics and readers alike in this wonderful novel.
3. Retromania: Pop Culture's Addiction to Its Own Past by Simon Reynolds (496 pages)
We live in a pop age gone loco for retro and crazy for commemoration. Band re-formations and reunion tours, expanded reissues of classic albums and outtake-crammed box sets, remakes and sequels, tribute albums and mash-ups . . . But what happens when we run out of past? Are we heading toward a sort of culturalecological catastrophe where the archival stream of pop history has been exhausted? Simon Reynolds, one of the finest music writers of his generation, argues that we have indeed reached a tipping point, and that although earlier eras had their own obsessions with antiquity—the Renaissance with its admiration for Roman and Greek classicism, the Gothic movement's invocations of medievalism—never has there been a society so obsessed with the cultural artifacts of its own immediate past. Retromania is the first book to examine the retro industry and ask the question: Is this retromania a death knell for any originality and distinctiveness of our own?
4. Man in the Woods: A Novel by Scott Spencer (336 pages)
Starred Review. Spencer, a deft explorer of obsessive love and violence, confronts the consequences of doing wrong for all the right reasons in his exquisite latest. Paul Phillips, a master carpenter, is living in bucolic upstate New York with Kate Ellis, the woman Spencer first introduced, along with her beguiling daughter, Ruby, in A Ship Made of Paper. But Paul's life begins to implode after a chance encounter results in an irrevocable act that no one witnesses, save a mixed-breed dog he renames Shep. Paul suffers the burden of his terrible secret: the fear of discovery and punishment and the equally disturbing fear of getting away with his crime. The incident and its fallout color his just-about-perfect life with lover Kate, now a recovered alcoholic turned famous inspirational writer, and particularly affects nine-year-old Ruby. As always, Spencer creates complex and genuine characters, the most marvelous character being Shep, the hapless rescue dog who endures abuse and becomes Ruby's pet. Spencer portrays the dog's life minus the sentimentality and anthropomorphism forced upon animals in fiction, and ingeniously uses Shep in this compelling story's dénouement--which underscores how even the most loving relationship might not be able to redeem a deadly act.
5. Decision Points by George W. Bush (512 pages)
George W. Bush's decisions were all correct. It was just the aftermath that sometimes became muddled. That, at least, is the impression one gets after reading this surprisingly robust memoir. For those who have missed "43" in the public eye (and for those who haven't as well), his voice is evident on every page. Cocky, defiant, and, at times (especially when speaking about his family), emotional, this is the George Bush who insists that "everybody" believed there were weapons of mass destruction, that much of the blame for the post-Katrina fiasco should be put on Louisiana's local governments, and that Harriet Miers would have made a fine Supreme Court justice, given the chance. He does admit some mistakes ("Mission Accomplished"), but he stands by his big decisions and backs up his claims, which is simpler to do when the other side isn't chiming in with their opinions and/or facts. Those who have followed Bush and his presidency will find many of the personal stories here familiar (how he stopped drinking; his whirlwind romance with Laura), but there are some fascinating reveals as well, including his affection for Ted Kennedy, his sometimes-complicated relationship with Dick Cheney, and his read-between-the-lines digs at Colin Powell. Some political memoirs (hello, Bill Clinton) are bloated journeys that devolve into pages and pages of, "and then I met . . ." Bush, smartly dividing the book into themes rather than telling the story chronologically, offers readers a genuine (and highly readable) look at his thought processes as he made huge decisions that will affect the nation and the world for decades. Many will ridicule his thinking and bemoan those decisions, but being George Bush, he won't really care.