Happy New Year b/w Suspension of Activity

January 3, 2010

Greetings all….

While composing the first posts of the New Year for my primary (Funky16Corners) and secondary (Iron Leg) blogs, it occurred to me that while I have read a number of books since the summer, I had failed to update Paperback Rider since before Labor Day.

When I started this blog it occurred to me – and I’m pretty sure I wrote it down in this space – that I might have been spreading my blogging abilities a little too thin, and it is at this late date that I must concur with the original diagnosis.

Aside from the fact that I have a very busy life, my reading habits/schedule (as it is) have not really fluctuated – in fact I’ve had a pretty steady run of books for the last six months or so – but my ability/willingness to sit down and write about them as they are completed has waned to the point of non-existence.

So – if anyone cares – I am suspending work (outright) on Paperback Rider until such time as I can make space in my schedule, and muster up the motivation, to bring it back to life.

Until then, I thank you for stopping by, and hopefully I’ll see you here again some time.




A little Fantasy and a little bit of Reality…

August 25, 2009


Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik

Greetings all.

I hope all is well.
This time out I’ll be reviewing the last two books I read (omitting one that I tried to wade into and got stuck)
The first one is ‘Victory of Eagles’, the latest installment in Naomi Novik’s ‘Temeraire’ series, about sentient war dragons during the Napoleonic Wars.
I know, I know, it’s a seemingly insane premise, but I assure you that Novik has, over the course of the five books proven that she is an excellent writer with a unique talent for melding fantasy and alternative history.
In brief, Temeraire, a Chinese born (laid actually, in the first book his egg is obtained by the British Navy and he actually hatches aboard an English Man-o-war.
Colonel Lawrence is Temeraire’s master/partner, and the relationship between the two is absolutely wonderfully written.
For those of you that haven’t read any of the earlier books (which I think you should) I’ll spare you the details, revealing only that Lawrence and Temeraire finally meet Napoleon on the field of battle.
Maybe not the kind of thing that everyone digs, but if you dig the genres above I think you’ll love these books.


Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture 1970-1979 by Tim Lawrence

The second volume we concern ourselves with is Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture 1970-1979 by Tim Lawrence. The book is a weighty historical tome based around New York City DJ culture as it developed through the decade of the 1970s. I – who happen to be a DJ – found it absolutely fascinating (if a little long). The book was full of revelations, technical info, vintage playlists and great pictures.
I can’t imagine that someone without a prior interest in the subject manner would be able to withstand the ‘thoroughness’ of the book, but like I said, if you’re interested in DJ culture, dance culture (disco and house in particular) you will find this book rewarding.

Next up: Last Places: A Journey in the North by Lawrence Millman


Always Magic In the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era

July 7, 2009


Always Magic In the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era

Greetings all.

I said I’d be back, and this time I was (apparently) telling the truth.

About a month ago I was trolling through one of my favorite music related sites and found a couple of books I wanted to read at a steep discount, so I grabbed them.

One of these was today’s selection, ‘Always Magic In the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era’ by Ken Emerson.

Being a huge Leiber and Stoller fan, this book caught my eye when it first came out in hardcover, and at the time it seemed a little slim to be dropping more than twenty bucks, so I passed, figuring I’d grab it in paperback (after which I promptly forgot about it).

So I ordered it, placed it on the “to be read” stack where it sat for a few weeks. I finally finished what I’d been reading, picked it up and didn’t put it down until this afternoon when I finally got to the end.

First off, if you have any interest in American pop music of the 1960s, and the brilliant people that wrote, produced and released it, this book is indispensable. My initial mistake of assuming that the book was insubstantial (it clocks in at around 260 pages) was a huge one, since the tome is well researched and densely packed with musical history. My wife actually asked me why it was taking me so long to read, and my reply was that it was taking that long to ingest all the information.

Emerson is an excellent writer with a real feel for the people he was writing about, mainly the songwriting teams of Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Carol King and Gerry Goffin, Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield, Jeffy Barry and Ellie Greenwich, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

Using those duos as a starting point, Emerson weaves his was through the song publishing and record business of the 1960s, incorporating business wizards like Don Kirshner, various and sundry gangster record label owners and (of course) musicians and performers.

The book is full of revelations about the creative processes of these composers, the ups and downs of their careers and the evolution of American popular music from the early days of rock’n’roll, through the teen pop era and right on into (and past) the psychedelic era.

If you’re a record collecting nut – like myself – you’ve been reading these names on record labels and album covers your entire life, and Emerson gives you a real feel for their lives and their art with tons of detail, laid out in an epic fashion, fitting the subject matter.

‘Always Magic In the Air’ is one of those music books that’s going to go right up on the shelf in my record room to be used a reference.

Next up: Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik


I’m Back (condensed version)

June 28, 2009


Greetings all.

This post has been a long time coming, and thanks to a lack of time right now will not follow the previous format. Hopefully I can get it together and start posting again, as I have been remiss.
The last time I posted a review (back in February?!?) I was in the middle of the book ‘In Search of Captain Zero’, which if you dig wonderfully written prose about surfing, is a must read, I found the story arc running through those descriptions to be anti-climactic, but I’d go as far as to say that if that if surfing interests you, it’d be worth picking up.
Around the time I was reading that book I underwent a serious life change, that being I left my job of 24 years to be a stay at home Dad for my two sons. I won’t go into too much detail, but my wife and I decided that for the sake of the kids, and for the continued sanity of the entire family, this would be the way to go.
This change disrupted my reading for quite some time as I became acclimated to the new routine. It was sometime in the spring that I was in the book store when I happened upon a display of various post-apocalyptic novels, many of which (including ‘Alas Babylon’ and ‘Earth Abides’) I had already read. One series, written by S.M. Stirling caught my eye, but thanks to the numbskulls at his publishing company, it wasn’t readily apparent which book was the first in the series, so I made a note, picked up something else (the excellent ‘World War Z’ by Max Brooks), went home and did a little research.
Good thing, too, because Stirling is a prolific author with several series to his name, including two related series that included the book I was looking for.
That series (known as the Emberverse) starting with ‘Dies the Fire’ has to do with a world beset by a mysterious, apocalyptic “change” that renders all electricity, internal combustion engines and explosives useless. It starts in the late 90s and progresses more than a decade over the course of the first three novels (numbers two and three are ‘The Protectors War’ and ‘Meeting at Corvallis’).
Stirling’s books drew me in right away. He has a real talent for plotting, creating compelling characters and researching the hell out of just about every topic covered in the novels.
I’ve read complaints about one of the major characters/settings in these books, but they didn’t bother me as much as the fact that if these books have a fault it’s an excess of “medieval battle porn”, i.e. constant, deeply detailed descriptions of arms and armor that got to be a little repetitive after a while.
That said, if you have an interest in good stories in the post-apocalyptic subgenre, I would recommend the first three novels in the Emberverse series. I read straight through all three (more than 1500 pages) and decided to take a break and read some other stuff before moving on to the next two (more are planned) which take up two decades after the end of ‘Meeting at Corvallis’.
After finishing those books I rambled and meandered through bits of non-fiction, magazines etc, before starting Cormac McCarthy’s ‘Blood Meridian’. I only got about two-thirds of the way into it when I decided that it was too dark and depressing, but vowed to pick it up and finish it soon.
Right now I’m reading the autobiography of comedian Tom Davis (of Franken and Davis) which was a fathers day gift. I’m enjoying it so far and will report back as soon as I’m finished.

Next up – 39 Years of Short Term Memory Loss


Tim and Tom: An American Comedy In Black and White

February 18, 2009


Tim and Tom: An American Comedy In Black and White

Greetings all.

I have returned once again, far too long between posts. However, this time it’s not because I haven’t been reading. I relocated my biblio-groove about six weeks ago and have been reading at a fairly steady pace ever since. Now I have to catch up on the blog(ging)…
This is partly due to the annual Christmas flood of prime reading material, and partly due to the conspiracy of the fates in which my brain and my outer time clock fall into synch. There’s not telling how long this bit of temporal synchronicity will last, so to borrow yet another cliché, one must strike while the iron is hot.
The book I’m reviewing today was in fact a Christmas gift (from my wonderful sister) who managed to grab me something off of my Amazon wish list before I grabbed it myself (you usually have to move pretty quickly to pull that one off, but these days my spending has dwindled to almost nil).
I don’t remember exactly when I first heard that Tim Reid and Tom Dreesen had once been a comedy team, but I do recall that it came as something of a shock. I (like most everyone else my age) knew Reid as Venus Flytrap on the TV series ‘WKRP in Cincinnati’. I had no idea that he was anything more than an accomplished character actor.
Tom Dreesen was familiar to me from countless Tonight Show appearances, as well as the fact that he was Frank Sinatra’s regular opening act during the last part of the Chairman’s career.
Sometime toward the end of last year I happened upon Reid, who was appearing on DL Hughley’s show to promote this very book. I added it to my wishlist immediately, and because Santa Claus (and my sister) was watching, it dropped into my stocking shortly afterward.
‘Tim and Tom’ is a well written, and surprisingly bittersweet memoir of the comedy team of the same name. It describes the austere upbringings of both men, their meeting in the suburbs of Chicago, and their years of struggle as perhaps the only integrated comedy team in the country. While there are lots of familiar sounding anecdotes about showbiz struggles, they are all viewed through the lens of late 1960s race relations, and both men are painstakingly honest about their feelings about the partnership and each other.
I won’t be giving away any spoilers when I mention that ultimately they met only with limited success (as a pair).
It’s a great read as a unique story, but also for anyone interested in stand up comedy.

Next up – In Search of Captain Zero


The Jazz Ear: Conversations Over Music

January 4, 2009


The Jazz Ear: Conversations Over Music by Ben Ratliff

Greetings all.

It has been an unforgivably long time since I posted here, but I must admit that it’s been just as long since I finished reading a book.

If you follow the goings on over at Funky16Corners you’ve surely encountered my grousing about life and how it happens to be abusing me these past few months. One unfortunate byproduct of that abuse is a collision between a lack of time in which to read and a lack of inclination to do the same.

I’m just not the kind of person that can get any reading done when I’m tired and stressed out, and I have been both of those things – in excess – for quite some time now.

However, sometimes, and this is one of those rare occasions, I reach an intersection in which just the right reading material arrives, as a previously unknown surplus of intellectual energy is discovered, and the reading train is placed back on the rails.

Thanks go out to my Mom and Pop who gave me Ben Ratliff’s ‘The Jazz Ear: Conversations Over Music’ as a Christmas gift. Ratliff was familiar to me as the jazz columnist for the New York Times, and the format of the book – relatively short chapters devoted to conversations with interesting jazz musicians – seemed like a perfect fit for my damaged attention span.

Best of all, as soon as I started reading I discovered that Ratliff had invited each of these musicians to pick the music they wanted to discuss, and though they are all jazz artists, many of them decided to bring along non-jazz music (which made for some very interesting discussions).

There were lots of personal faves (Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins, Roy Haynes, Pat Metheny, Andrew Hill, Bob Brookmeyer) as well as many artists who I’m not familiar with. The format is (in some cases) a great window into the thought processes – musical and otherwise – of some very interesting people, and provides food for thought (and listening).

Very cool.

Now reading – Tim & Tom: An American Comedy In Black and White


Catching Up (sort of…)

November 14, 2008

Greetings all.

It’s been a long time since I posted here due in large part to the fact that in the few, rare moments when I’ve had time to read, I’ve been book-hopping like a sonofabitch.
Thanks to lots of music blog related work (including an upcoming internet radio show), sick kids, various and sundry parental/household responsibilities and a ton of other shit (including a near crippling case of political angst) reading time has – as I said – been at a premium.
I’m one of those folks that can’t read when I’m fatigued. I’ll prop myself up in bed with my book light, and before long, after I’ve dropped my book six or seven times, I pack it in and succumb to sleep.
When last we met, I had begun to read a collection of stories by the 19th century Russian writer Nikolai Gogol. I read four or five of them – which I was enjoying – when I had to get back to some non-recreational reading, and Gogol fell by the wayside (albeit temporarily).
Then, following the whitewater section of my stream of consciousness, I discovered, ordered, received, and then struggled with Jack London’s ‘The Iron Heel’.
I was shocked when I saw the book on a list of dystopian novels (I’d never heard of it before), and after seeing a synopsis I got myself a copy. While the subject matter is incredibly compelling, and both prescient and relevant, London’s style in ‘The Iron Heel’ was a little hard to wade through, and I fought valiantly with it until I completed it a few weeks later.
By that point I had already stockpiled a few other books (some new from the store, some passed along by my always thoughtful and generous in-laws and some left over from days of yore). Fortunately, one of these was a short story anthology, entitled ‘Wastelands’, which collected tales with an apocalyptic (pre/post and during) theme. I was just starting that one when I heard that the mighty John Leonard had passed away.
I watched Leonard for years in his capacity as a cultural critic on CBS Sunday Morning, as well as following his TV writing in New York Magazine. Leonard was possessed of a singular, towering intellect and I admired him greatly.
When I saw his obituary, I wondered why I had never sought out any collections of his essays and criticisms. I remedied the situation immediately and am currently deep into the 1997 collection ‘Smoke and Mirrors: Violence, Television, and Other American Cultures’. Reading John Leonard is like strapping yourself (or at least your brain) into a pop-cult roller coaster. What separates Leonard from so many brilliant – yet boring – thinkers, is an ability to embrace popular culture in an unironic way with an incredibly broad frame of reference that makes reading the thoughts he has applied to paper genuinely exciting.
So, that’s where I’m at.
I suspect that when I complete this Leonard anthology (I have another one on the way) I’ll post a full review.
Until then….