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Summer catch-up: Books

Posted: June 24th, 2008, by Marceline Smith

Daniel Radosh: Rapture Ready! – Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture.
I’ve always been partial to the writing of occasional New Yorker scribe and cultural critic Daniel Radosh ever since he penned some complimentary words about my website acidlogic.com.  My ears perked up when I discovered he’d written an analysis of the under discussed topic of Christian Pop culture in America.  I was particularly curious as to whether he could answer a long-running question of mine: why is Christian rock music so lame? Radosh does tackle that query (and actually points to some Christian rock that is really quite good) and surveys the totality of the modern Christian pop movement.  Those who view fundamentalists and evangelists* as part of a monolithic movement walking lockstep with itself will be surprised: there’s a lot of debate within Christianity itself as to how far it should embrace secular fetishes like television, comedy, rock music and wrestling to spread the gospel.  Radosh, a non-Orthodox jew bordering (in my opinion) on atheism, talks to Christians across the political spectrum and gives them a fair chance to express their beliefs while not being afraid to challenge them on points he deems questionable.  I found Radosh’s final conclusions on how the Christian and secular world can work to better understand each other a little murky, but that’s more due to the magnitude of this topic.  No doubt more books will be written exploring this subject in the coming years, but Radosh deserves praise for being one of the first through the gate.
* There is a difference between the two.  Read the book to find out what. [Wil Forbis]

Wil Forbis – Acid Logic
That would have to be Wil Forbis’ compendium of articles and columns. Truly great stuff, regardless of his exalted diskant friend status. His writing reminds me that there is real value in encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture and obscure things. He’s got that in bucketloads, along with a whole lot of style and inventiveness. [Simon Minter]

Slash – The Autobiography
Slash’s autobiography is an entertaining and often hilarious read. Value for money is low as I defy anyone to not plough through this in a couple of days it’s so unputdownable. The part where he runs naked through a plate glass shower door and out onto a golf course because he thinks tiny versions of the alien from the film Predator are attacking him is worth the cost of the book alone. Video.  [Chris Summerlin]

Daniel J Levitin – This Is Your Brain On Music
What is music? Why do we perceive certain collections of sounds to be musical and others not?   “This Is Your Brain On Music” attempts to answer these and other questions.  Levitin is a neuroscientist, but also an accomplished musician (and music fan), and handles the topic in an accessible and entertaining fashion without dumbing down the science. [Alex McChesney]

Al Burian – Natural Disaster / Wil Forbis – Acid Logic
Natural Disaster is the second volume collecting back issues of Al Burian’s zines – I got this a while ago but had to save it for my next holiday as it really is the best way to enjoy Burian. As expected, I pretty much devoured the whole thing on a 5 hour train journey to London last month. He’s a dangerous man, making a life of breadline loserdom, working in copy shops and hitching around the world sound like a totally awesome way to live. The chapter on the power of the non-stop party wagon to lead you on a fulfilling journey of crazy once-in-a-lifetime experiences is temptation itself. The whole book is hilariously funny and yet punctuated by some honest and thought-provoking incidents that round it out perfectly. It’s not unlike our own Wil Forbis’ excellent book, where absurd humour and outrageous claims only partly disguise his wealth of knowledge about underground culture. It’s your summer reading all sorted, right here. [Marceline Smith]

John Fante – Wait Until Spring, Bandini
I recently finished my first experience of John Fante, with his first book, “Wait Until Spring, Bandini.” You can really see the influence he had on Bukowski, but Fante’s style is so much more poetic, even when describing the most grinding of poverty and the basest emotions of men. Definitely worth investigating, if you can bear it. [Dave Stockwell]

The Damned Utd by David Peace
People have mocked and scoffed at me for reading this, referring to it as “your little Brian Clough book” but this is a truly crisp, albeit fictional, account of what it is to be an individual in management when working against your bosses, peers and colleagues.  Now why would this theme appeal to me I wonder????? [JGram]

Nabokov, The American Years – Brian Boyd
A fascinating insight into the author of Lolita, Pnin and Pale Fire. Includes details of how he sourced Lolita’s appearance and education, his hard-work ethic, frighteningly superior acumen and comic peculiarities. There is a great passage in the biography of how he collected bits and pieces which grew into one of his greatest characters, Lolita: ‘he took “one arm of a little girl who used to come and see Dmitri [Nabokov’s son], one kneecap of another”. He visited a school principal on the pretext of placing his little daughter.’ Probably not the most exciting read for a non-Nabokov fan, but for me this is massively interested as ‘Lolita’ is one of my favourite novels, and Nabokov one of my favourite writers. [Pascal Ansell]

Stuart Maconie – Pies and Prejudice
A love letter to the North from Britain’s treasure; It begins at Crewe station, where dinner is at midday, but is Burnley really the new Seattle? Following on from his rock memoir ‘Cider With Roadies’ Maconie gives us another pun based offering. Now Maconie writes a travelogue. He speaks as an exile, a Wiganer who considers supper to be a meal of milk and digestives eaten in a dressing gown but who now keeps his sun dried tomatoes by the cappuccino maker. Seeking to challenge regional stereotypes he rediscovers his own identity by taking a great train journey through Harrogate and Saddleworth taking in Wigan Pier and Blackpool Tower on the way. A whistle stop tour of the beautiful South leads him to the harder North of ‘soul, lights and rock,’ a landscape that changes at Crewe Station, where the ‘tarmac turns to cobbles. Maconie devotes large chapters to definitive Northern cities such as Liverpool, the ‘pool of life’ with its musical legacy and the Parthenon-esque St Georges Hall. Manchester ‘has fancied itself rotten for as long as anyone can remember,’ is home to Mark E. Smith, ‘the northern white crap that talks back.’ He writes of its blood red fiercely leftist past, and Working Class Movement Library in Salford. In a chapter about Lancashire dubbed, ‘Mills and Bhuna,’ the virtues of George Katsouris’s deli and Bury’s legendary black pudding are extolled. Wigan’s pie lovers hang out at Alan’s bike shop. Yorkshire gives us brass bands, and the Sheffield of Joe and Jarvis cocker. Leodensians include the old guard such as Freddie Trueman and Alan Bennett and new bands such as Forward Russia and the Kaiser Chiefs. While blue sky thinking from the late Tony Wilson led him to declare Burnley to be the new Seattle! The North of the screen from George Formby to Albert Finney is described with enthusiasm. Blackpool is The ‘Las Vegas of Europe and the Great North includes the architecture of Grey Street while Maconie’s love of the Lake District is touched on in loving odes to the Cumbrian Mountains. If you are on familiar terms with Greggs the bakers or rugby league you may see yourself somewhere within these pages. It’s nostalgic yet faithful to its subject matter and written with wit and passion. The author may have trouble working up the enthusiasm for a store cupboard snog with anyone who doesn’t love kitchen sink drama but he has clearly fallen in love with an entire region. [Mandy Williams]

Marceline Smith

Marceline is the fierce, terrifying force behind diskant.net, laughing with disdain as she fires sharpened blades of sarcasm in all directions. Based in Scotland, her lexicon consists of words such as 'jings', 'aboot' and 'aye': our trained voice analysts are yet to decipher some of the relentless stream of genius uttered on a twenty-four hour basis. Marceline's hobbies include working too much and going out in bad weather.


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