Duranalysis: essays on the Duran Duran experience by Morgan Richter (5 out of 5)

•April 25, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I found Morgan on Twitter….Before that, I was following her fun blog, Preppies of the Apolocalypse. (Psstt….Check it out). Before that, I was in the international coven of horny, ruffle distracted Duranies, along with her and many others. I was screwed (I wish!) from the minute that “Planet Earth” video premiered on MV50, free TV in Chicago’s answer to MTV. No, we didn’t have MTV until MUCH later. I kept seeing Morgan’s depictions of scenes in Duran videos, and her version of what was said. I giggled. Then I found out the mother lode- she had a BOOK coming out. On Duran Duran. Personally, more Duranies need to write books. First, the lovely Elisa Lorello’s memoir, “Friends Of Mine: Thirty Years in the Life of a Duran Duran Fan”, and now Morgan’s book. You guys know how much I love books…Obviously, this little blog passed 5 years in April. If I make it that long, October will be be 18 years I have been in the book managing business. And yes, they DO have a future. And yes, hopefully, so do more Duran Duran books like this. What fun! I don’t know the lovely Morgan well, but I do know this…She can write, she’s hilarious, and as I tweeted to her a few days ago, I feel like she’d crawled up into some small area of my cerebral closet and had been hiding there for years. That’s how spot-on she is with her essays. 

Highlights? Many. Memories? None careless, all fun. Personally, Nick’s seemingly being murdered by the ruffled monostrosity he’s wearing in the “Planet Earth” video is probably my favorite, but there are many more to choose from, my lovelies. I was pleased to see that Morgan also believes the boys should not dance (Anyone non-Duranie who is confused? Check out the end of the “New Moon on Monday” video.). I was also pleased to see she was perplexed by Nick’s tweed torture chamber that he wears in the “Union of the Snake” video. I have to go back and re-watch “Arena” now, because I definitely do NOT recall this erotic John Taylor-Heinken moment that she reminds us of. Sweet Lord, I am thirsty. (Shut up!). Morgan charts the expertly-eye linered obstacle course that is the career of my favorite band. I feel she has just tapped the surface of Duran Duran. Maybe one of the rest of us will ruminate further on the rest, or we’ll be further entertained by a follow-up on the boys. I hope this is the case! I fucking loved it, and I promise you will too! 

The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs (5 out of 5) 

•April 23, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I found out about this book because I saw a tweet about missing Nina, from one of the editors at Simon & Schuster. Then I googled Nina and saw a synopsis of her story and found out that she had a memoir coming out in June. I emailed Wendy, my pub rep and buddy at S&S, and asked about several galleys, including Nina’s book. Thankfully, she was able to send it. I got it while off on medical vacation for getting my gallbladder out. I was not feeling my best, so I held off on reading her story until I was feeling better. I started it on Friday at 7pm and finished it at 11pm Friday night. You can’t set it down. This is a beautiful story about a wife and mother of two boys who finds out she has triple negative breast cancer. I didn’t mention yet, but she is at this time also in the process of watching her mother lose her years long battle against cancer. I know most of you read this review and will think that her story is a bummer. I assure you that it’s anything but that. Achingly beautiful and emotionally realistic, Nina spares no one with the frankness and leaves no one with tears unshed. Her husband John and her boys Freddy and Benny are forefront to the story, along with Ginny, Nina’s friend who is also battling cancer at the same time. You grow to love and care for her imnediate family and friends as much as you do for Nina. Here’s another thing, friends. Nina’s book is honest, funny, and her language is exquisitely beautiful. She finds the good, the bad, and yes, the very ugly. It’s a story of life, love, laughter, and yes, grief. Nina’s arrival at acceptance that she is dying will wring you dry, but it will also inspire you to get her story heard. It’s not going to be an easy read, but life isn’t easy, either, so put your doubts into a pasture and pick up this book. It is a gorgeous memoir. Consider yourself lucky to have known Ms. Nina Riggs. I do. 

Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night by Jason Zinoman (5 out of 5)

•April 23, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I have to tell you that most of my coworkers were stumped as to why I was reading this. Let me explain. I’m 44 and they’re all in their early 30’s and younger. They get their kicks on Route 66 watching the likes of Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, and James Corden. I tell them the best Kimmel was when he was Ben Stein’s sidekick on “Win Ben Stein’s Money”. I get blank looks. It’s a generation thing. The same applies to David Letterman. I grew up being allowed to stay up all hours of the night and watch almost anything on TV. My mom was a huge Letterman fan. My Dad loved Johnny Carson. We had the best of both worlds watching the two Kings of late night. But as with many other points, this book raises the excellent point that Carson and Letterman were opposites in many ways, not just the general format of the show, but also their styles of comedy. If you didn’t actually watch either, this book is a great starting point. And the younger generation really did miss out if they have no idea of the comic malevolence of Letterman. Their loss. I’m also sure that my many years of watching him prepared me for the acerbic, dry wit of several close friends of mine. I’m real fucking glad I was exposed to many years of his show. This book is a worthy companion to those years. 

David Letterman’s brand of comedy wasn’t for everyone. The author puts forth many examples of this, not just from the vantage point of network execs, but from Letterman’s detractors and even guests and those who worked with him. We get the full background from his childhood in Muncie, IN (With a family that wasn’t demonstrative in affection in the least, it shouldn’t be a surprise that his general contenance was exactly as it was on his show and in real life), to his days as a weatherman, to his first televised MORNING show. Yes, morning show. There was a morning show BEFORE Late Night. Late Night was a show that he personally suffered over, time and time again. The phrase “He suffered for his art”, had to be written with Letterman in mind. His first significant partner, Merrill Markoe, suffered along with him, a yin to his yang, for many years. The reader gets a very concise understanding of how Late Night’s writing staff (among them well-known oddball comedian Chris Elliot) and guests of infamy (Andy Kauffman, Bill Murray, Paul Reubens) shaped the show from beginning to end. What to like about this biographical portrait? Everything. What I really liked? No muck raking into his private life. There is intermittent information brought forth by the author, in regards to his relationships with his first wife, Markoe, and his second wife Regina Lasko, as well as the cheating scandal, and the birth of his pride and joy, son Harry, but it’s done with aplomb and sensitivity, not some absurd “National Enquirer” tilt. And that is what separates this from some unauthorized tell-all. When Zinoman shares his admiration for Letterman and his disappointment at being tricked by one of Letterman’s producers back in the day, you feel sorry for him, but not terribly surprised. If you’re a long-time Letterman devotee, the story will not surprise you. This is the mindtrust that brought you “Stupid Pet Tricks”, after all. If you count yourself among the fans, go pick up this book. 

Nevertheless: A Memoir by Alec Baldwin (4 out of 5)

•April 15, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Yes, THAT Alec Baldwin. Impersonator of Drumph. Broadway actor. Hollywood actor. Author. Lightning rod for controversy, at his own behest. Political afficianado.Husband and father. I was excited months ago to hear he had a book coming out. I read it in about two hours while sitting at the doctor’s office Thursday. I was pleasantly surprised. I knew it would be articulate, and it was. I knew it would be balls to the wall, and his pants were down around his ankles the entire book. I didn’t think it would tug on the heartstrings, though, and it did. Especially in discussing his somewhat distant relationship with his parents. The marriage and acrimonious divorce from Kim Basinger is discussed, and no stone unturned, but even when it’s not 100% wine and roses, he gives her a fair shake. I’ll be honest and say I expected that part of the book would be more cutthroat. He addresses the incident with his daughter and that voicemail message. His marriage to Hilaria is discussed, in what can only be described as the prose of a man quite obviously head over heels in love. But more than that, and what I loved most, was the obvious love of his craft. The book oozed love for acting in all forms, and there are great stories peppered throughout the book. I think it’s important in this one life we have to love the work you do; Baldwin does that and more. If you’re a fan of film, the man’s work, and yes, politics in this day and age, you will enjoy this book. If you’re only in it for a National Enquirer-type read, you’ll be bitterly disappointed. I really enjoyed the book, in spite of (or maybe, because of) the man’s foibles. Read on, people. Read on. 

American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back by Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal (5 out of 5)

•April 13, 2017 • Leave a Comment

This book comes out after my gallbladder surgery two weeks ago. Then I got the bill. One of my favorite DJ’s had prostate surgery a month ago and put his bill up on FB. It makes you grateful for health insurance. But seeing those bills and some of the amounts on it.. you start to question. An IV in the arm costs $1,458? To book the OR is $11,500? Say what? SAY WHAT?!! Dr. Rosenthal tries-and succeeds- at trying to explain the “science” behind how the healthcare industry and system works. It works, as many suspected, as a sort of highly functioning scam. A profit margin devoted to making hospitals, doctors, and the insurance companies more than a pretty penny, while the quality of care and patient awareness in how it works is often an unanswered question mark. This is NOT how it’s supposed to be, ladies and gents. Rosenthal takes us through the history of where it began, and what it’s evolved into. She unearths the ugly side, and uses real-life examples of patients who have been suckered by the system. But Dr. Rosenthal does more than educate us. She also attempts to give us the tools to take back our healthcare and pass the word onto others out there who are feeling overwhelmed. This book will scare the mother-in-law shit out of you. Several things I read made me terrified. Terrified of getting sick and ending up in the hospital again. That’s what happens after you read a book like this. You walk away enlightened, energized, and scared shitless. Rosenthal has done a great service writing this book. It should be a prequisite to read before you consider any sort of medical procedure. It should be on everyone’s reading list. The book just came out on Tuesday, April 11, and is available from Penguin Press. 

The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates (5 out of 5) 

•April 13, 2017 • Leave a Comment

There was no beautiful struggle to finish this book. Most know Coates because of his award-winning, best-selling book “Between The World And Me”. Until my former bookeague (book colleague) Greg recommended it, I hadn’t heard of it. I am way behind on reading books of actual beauty. I’m too busy reading all sorts of alarming literature, classics mirroring our current world state madness, celebrity memoirs, music biographies, idiosyncratic fiction, etc. “Between The World And Me” is a book I read two years ago and loved. It should have occurred to me to see if he had written anything else. Hindsight is 20/20 in a world of 60/40. 

Our primary focus here is Paul Coates, Vietnam vet, Black Panther, unequivocal vocalist of free love, publisher, and father (and hero) to his seven kids. He tries his best to carry on in the wayward inner city streets of Baltimore when the crack epidemic has begun to take over the area. His two boys, Ta-Nehisi and Big Bill, give him the biggest concerns of all. What follows in this slim volume of memories is his story of trying to make his boys adjust their very distinct and individual personalities to navigate life in a neighborhood once thought of as home and quickly eroding into a dark and unsafe haven. The language within and the love emanating from the pages, of a man trying to keep peace and light in this world while facing reality head on, is infectious. Paul Coates is a man more should know about. Now, thanks to his son, we are lucky enough to. 

The Wanderers by Meg Howrey (2 out of 5)

•April 9, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Sorry, that’s my fat meatball cat you see in the background there. I had such high hopes for this book, based on high praise and early buzz for it. And I love the cover! The love buzz was not to last, sadly. 

Prime Space (think NASA) is gearing up for its biggest space gig yet: Four years from now, it aims to put the first human beings on Mars! The crew in training for this ground-breaking journey are Helen, Yoshi, and Sergei. All have different reasons for wanting this to go smoothly. In preparation for the journey, they are sent into an incredibly realistic simulation. They are under 24-hours a day observation and are expected to remain stoic and in control. Any ideas how tough it might be to be in a virtual simulation, separated from family, friends, & life as you know it? You’ll have a pretty good idea after reading this. The families and friends on the outside must learn to cope with their feelings of desolation, isolation, and yes, even desire. Inside the simulation, fact begins to fight with fiction and nothing is quite as it seems. This was a book teeming with promise, but it really started to bug me a third of a way through. I was hoping for some real conflict; in fact, the premise of the book (not to mention the book jacket) kind of lends itself to the possibility of that sort happening. Not really delivering. It’s good that the astronauts are so stoic in the face of what most would be freaking out over, but they don’t emote. Ever. It’s very weird. I almost thought if a case of lemon Pledge were set up next to the 3 in the simulation, you would have a better reaction. Seriously! I was very disappointed in the retred, often listless astronauts. You can damn well bet if I were one of those astronauts, that simulation would be hopping. (Stop! Hammer time!). This book was not hopping. It was plopping.