Category Archives: Books

The Saint, not back in print but even better

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Leslie Charteris’ classic series of Saint books– all of them, dozens of them– are now available as e- books, including on Kindle. Even better, these digital editions of the adventures of Simon Templar (basis for numerous movies and TV series) can be borrowed for free if you have Amazon Prime.

This is a huge deal for me. READ MORE



Rebirther: A Memoir-ish Book From Singer/Songwriter Todd Snider

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It must be a little frustrating, or off-putting, or maybe worrying, to be a singer-songwriter who’s best known for telling stories between tunes on stage. Didn’t people come to hear you sing? That’s the strange predicament that the singer Todd Snider has found himself in — he’s made a name for himself because of his outrageous rant-stories that he launches into to set up his material. To be fair, he’s funny as hell, like a jittery speed-freak after several beers retelling some of his best near-death anecdotes for the edification of all. Don’t get me wrong: people like his songs, too. But it’s fitting that Snider has finally written a book, since his narrative riffs in front of crowds always seemed to beg for being set to the page and bound between covers.

Snider’s “I Never Met A Story I Didn’t Like” (out this month from DaCapo Press) rehashes some of his best material, about getting wasted, getting arrested, hanging with his idols, or generally pissing off the rich and powerful. It’s a book of unabashed road stories, drunk tales and thoroughly baked shaggy-dog sagas. READ MORE



Cat Stevens??!!??!!

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will induct another crop of musical icons this Thursday night in Brooklyn. At least this year they’re giving nods to deserving folks like Nirvana, Peter Gabriel, Brian Epstein and Andrew Loog Oldham.

Some of the “undercard” at this year’s ceremony seems dubious at best but, hey, it’s their museum and they can induct whoever they want. Besides, everyone keeps their own private rock ‘n’ roll museum locked inside their hearts. However, the RRHOF really scraped the bottom of the barrel this year with Cat Stevens. Wow, nothing says “rock ‘n’ roll” quite like “Cat Stevens,” ya know?

Cat stevens

When last we saw this Cat (aka Yusuf Islam), he was still refusing to admit that he backed the Ayatollah’s 1989 fatwa on the novelist Salman Rushdie for the “blasphemy” of having written the novel The Satanic Verses. But this piece of video, proof that Stevens/Islam did in fact call for Rushdie’s death, just won’t go away:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Oienjf0GK8

Perhaps sensing that the ceremony had become more of a wake or an entombment than a celebration, the Hall has opened the event to the public for the first time, and is holding it in a basketball arena (Barclays Center, where the Nets play). In years past, the induction ceremony was for high-rollers only, with seats and tables going for king’s ransoms. They’re not exactly giving the seats away this year, with prices ranging from $55 to $576.40. But still, you can go:

http://www.barclayscenter.com/events/detail/rock-and-roll-hall-of-fame-induction-ceremony

The highlight of the ceremony in Brooklyn will, no doubt, be Bruce Springsteen inducting his former E Street Band, and performing with them, and perhaps the well-deserved, belated salutes to Epstein and Oldham. Every inductee’s presenter has been decided and announced (e.g. Michael Stipe will induct Nirvana, Tom Morello will induct KISS, etc.). Everyone but poor Cat Stevens.

Might I suggest Salman Rushdie be given the honors? Turnabout is fair play. And it just screams “rock ‘n’ roll”!

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Japan Before The Last War

Shigeru Mizuki

Shigeru Mizuki is one of Japan’s masters of animation and cartooning. He specializes in yokai, cultural anthropology tinged with the supernatural and filled with animals thought to possess magical powers, some of them taking the form of monsters (think: Mothra, Godzilla, etc.). At age 92, however, Mizuki has turned his gifts on the even larger, stranger animal of his homeland, to create a four-volume portrait of twentieth-century Japan thousands of pages in length (this volume alone has 560 pages). Daunting as that sounds, Mizuki is as playful as he is thorough, using a narrator named Rat Man, who serves as his guide through the wreckage.

Showa 1926-1939: A History of Japan, the first volume of this epic, has just been published by Drawn & Quarterly, which published his stunning look at World War II from behind Japanese lines, Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, two years ago. That book was drawn almost entirely from his own experiences during the war, in which he lost his left arm to an Allied bombing, nearly died from malaria and was a prisoner of war on New Guinea.

Showa is as brilliantly drawn and meticulously footnoted as Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths. It is also a chilling reminder of the relentless plodding toward world war that began as early as the aftermath of the “Great War” (World War One). Showa takes Japan right up to the brink of Pearl Harbor.

Showa 1926-1939: A History of Japan by Shigeru Mizuki, Drawn & Quarterly, 560 pages, $24.95, www.drawnandquarterly.com



The Nattering of the Not Cool

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Not Cool: The Hipster Elite and Their War on You

By Greg Gutfeld (Crown Forum 2014)

This attack on contemporary values comes from the author of the bestselling The Joy of Hate, who’s also the host of The Five and the Fox News show Red Eye.

There are myriad books out there mocking hipsters. This one actually bothers to build them up before knocking them down. READ MORE



The Music of Margaret Wise Brown

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Goodnight Songs by Margaret Wise Brown (Sterling Children’s Books, 2014)

This is a sweet and unexpected book—nine previously unpublished works by one of the greatest of all children’s book authors, Margaret Wise Brown of Goodnight Moon fame, plus three previously known pieces, illustrated by a dozen contemporary childrens book talents. READ MORE