Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Have a Drink on Me

On Drinking - Charles Bukowski - Edited by Abel Debritto (ECCO) 

The new collection of writings, On Drinking, by Charles Bukowski, edited by Bukowski expert Abel Debritto, you get everything you should have come to expect from Mr. Bukowski; at turns the writings are colorful, profane, elegant, and caustic. Bukowski is a prolific scribbler and this collection offers up the scratchings of poetry, short stories, magazine quotes and observations.

On Drinking, proves that EVERYTHING was fodder for Bukowski writings - events big or small or seemingly insignificant. Bukowski On Drinking is really drinking as a catalyst for writings on women and sex and life and family and sobriety and all things Bukowski. Clearly a drunkard himself, Bukowski offers up some colorful thoughts, observations and prose about drunks, especially those who are not himself.

Many skilled practitioners of the art form of writing have bemoaned the difficulty of churning out words, that often give reference to the strain of giving birth. Bukowski does seem to give credence to the stream of thought. In fact he seems to lend credence to the line the alcohol lubes the system and ease the flow of words onto the blank page.

Some of these scribblings drip with an intense loneliness and despair, while others display and all out, reckless abandon and humor. Much of what is gathered here seems to be imbued with a sense of telling the real world to go F itself. That attitude makes this collection a must read for those who aspire to the form.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Judgment Day for Judgment

Judgment: A Novel – Joseph Finder (Dutton)

Joseph Finder is one of my all-time favorite authors. He has done an amazing job of crafting tightly woven plots, compelling characters and stories that will suck you in and keep you turning pages and guessing right to the very end. Add to that his willingness to kill off a main character along the way just to ratchet things up.

With his new book, Judgment, I am left questioning Finder’s judgement. First, there are the totally out of place, backhanded slaps at Donald Trump, ranging from a dog chewing on a Trump figurine chew toy (?) to a running commentary on branches  of the U.S. government that deal with all things Russia, are underfunded/understaffed. Not sure how these offhand remarks (Russia collusion?) served moving the story along?

Plot Holes
Couple that silliness with plot holes throughout and storylines that swerve off the road and go nowhere and you’ll be left scratching your head. You have to wonder how it is that the seemingly all knowing, all seeing antagonist somehow misses when the protagonist, Judge Julianna Brody has a series of meetings with representatives of the federal government.

The ending was a dramatic miss, where Brody gets to walk straight into a high powered meeting at the private residence of a Russian oligarch so she can confront her tormentor directly. Now this is a guy who has been portrayed as being so ruthless, or surrounded by ruthless killers who would not hesitate to kill off anyone who gets in the way; yet she gets to walk out of the house unscathed. In fact there were so many opportunities that Judge Brody could have been dispatched that it defies logic and any grip on reality.

It was my respect for Finder’s skill that kept me plugging along, reading to the end, in an unrealized hope that things would take a turn for the better, that never happened.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Bottom Line on the Bottom Line

Geddy Lee’s Big Beautiful Book of Bass: A Compendium of the Rare, Iconic and Weird – Geddy Lee – (Harper Design)

Who better than Geddy Lee, the man who spent nearly 40 years anchoring the bottom end of the sound of progressive legends and Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductees, Rush, to write a definitive treatise on the bass guitar. This amazing collection, chock full of amazing photos, deep history and insightful interviews with some of the masters of the instrument all under the covers of Geddy Lee’s Big Beautiful Book of Bass: A Compendium of the Rare, Iconic and Weird.

You will literally run out of adjectives to describe the book, before you run out of book. The photography, courtesy of Richard Sibbald – illustrates the full range of styles, shapes, sizes, colors and finishes from manufacturers like Fender, Gibson, Hofner, Ampeg, Rickenbacher and even Steinberger.

Lee waxes poetically about his voluminous personal collection and details the axes he used in the studio and on the stage. Lee offers a completists approach to a graphical index of a timeline of the history of the bass. You can hear a mutual respect in the interviews Lee conducts with a group of legendary bassists ranging from Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, U2’s Adam Clayton, Robert Trujilio (Metalica/Suicidal Tendencies) the Rolling Stones’ Bill Wyman among others.

Lee shows just how deep this collection goes by looking at international bass builders/craftsman (luthiers) Dan Armstrong, Tony Zemortas and Antonio Wandr Pioli. This is a must read for bassists, bottom line bass/Rush fans, music fans, and fans of the skilled craftsman who create musical works of art. It’s only fitting that the Geddy Lee’s Big Beautiful Book of Bass: A Compendium of the Rare, Iconic and Weird is a work of art.

Monday, February 4, 2019

A Tale of Two Thrills

Freefall: A Novel – Jessica Barry (Harper)

Thrillers, by their very nature, need to bait the hook, tease the reader into biting on the story and then set the hook and keep them locked in for the full ride. Great thrillers feature sympathetic, yet tough as nails characters and a story line that is relatable and that you care enough about that you want to see what happens to them in the end. It helps if the author can parcel out the story in a way that keeps readers guessing and thinking that they can discern  where things are going before they actually get there.

Jessica Barry’s debut, Freefall, checks all of the boxes, with a story line that runs on a dual track. Allison carpenter miraculously survives when her fiance’s private plane crashed into a mountain side in the Rockies. Thousands of miles away in Maine, Allison’s Mom, Maggie – estranged from her daughter, upon hearing the news, tries to piece together her daughter’s life, all the while doubting the reports of her death. Both women fully live up to the sympathetic yet tough as nails standard.

Allison’s harrowing trek out of the mountains and toward a new life, free of the almost stereotypical, bad guy, big pharma CEO fiancĂ© driving her forward. While there are a number of brushes and near misses with folks who seem hell bent on stopping her from blowing the whistle on her fiance’s wrongdoing. Along the way it becomes apparent that her beau was not at the stick when the plane went down and that a race for survival was on between the pair.

There is an equally relatable crustiness to Maggie’s character; if you have a cranky parent or grandparent you can hear the old school, familiar disdain, with little to no patience for new people and new things. The slam bang finish is satisfying and sets the table for Jessica Barry to be an ongoing thriller talent to be reckoned with.