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The Outsider "Muso" (London)

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Born to Run
Born to Run
by Bruce Springsteen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.00

10 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Driven Like No Other, 1 Oct. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Born to Run (Hardcover)
Bruce Springsteen's autobiography is candid, lucid, rambling and like the artist himself, needed a stronger editor. But as any reader or concert goer knows, no one tells the 'Boss' what to do. Bruce's rise is enthralling, illustrating the importance of talent, luck and above all, drive. Up to and including his retirement in 1989, the book is very illuminating and slightly terrific. But as Bruce marries Patti, he becomes a lot less interesting and his tale becomes flaccid.

Bruce has one giant ego, that's for sure. He may not like his voice so much (I do) but he damn sure loves his guitar playing (I don't much), his song writing (excellent till recently) and above all, his stagecraft (it is great). Bruce comes from a terrible background - a history of manic depression on his father's Irish side, the Boss was dirt poor for a white American living in New Jersey. He shook off school, his parents, etc. and went for it with a relentless drive that has seldom been matched anywhere in music - moreso than any of the Brit groups he so reveres (I don't so much) or any of his contemporaries - maybe Prince, Madonna and Michael Jackson had this to a similar degree. He pulled himself up, worked on his talents, and ruthlessly moved up. He had luck in meeting Mike Appel (the manager who robbed him blind) because Mike got him an audience with the great John Hammond (Columbia's great A&R genius). He had bags of talent, lifting influences from all over to craft an authentic American rock sound. He developed the modern stage act - so influenced by the great James Brown - with his great band and super long shows.

It's only in this book that the gigly, humble Boss reveals what an incredible mess of a man he was all along. He has to play long shows to stave off his depression. He had to develop muscles to please his mentally ill father. He had to avoid women (except for romances of relatively short duration) or they would discover the Boss was a mess. This confessional is honest, but takes over the tale too much. Bruce is not above slagging off his friends and idolising his 'heroes' - I find him a bit petty and controlling all the way through.

But Bruce was one of the great post-Dylan songwriters, a singer and performer of great skill and energy, and his heart usually in the right place. There is much to admire in his tale of candour. The last third of this too- long confessional is dull, but the first 350 pages is pure rock and roll. More authentic than Dylan's Chronicles, more serious than Keith Richard's entertaining ego rant, Born to Run is one of the great rock autobiographies.


Islands in the Stream
Islands in the Stream
by Ernest Hemingway
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Deep Water Tales, 7 Sept. 2016
This review is from: Islands in the Stream (Paperback)
This is unforgettable - a brilliant 3 part book about Thomas Hudson (an EH surrogate), a manly painter, twice divorced. Despite his success, TH drinks too much, misses his sons, gets into mischief. etc Just like EH.

Each part has wonderful set pieces - a huge fight and fishing scene (one of his sons wrestles a Marlin for half a day) in Part 1, a drunken conversation with a friendly hooker in Part II and a firefight with Nazis in Part III. These are good enough on their own to merit the 5*. But the overall book is very sad and tragic, and carries a huge punch.

If you love EH, this is great. If new to him, start elsewhere, like Farewell to Arms or For Whom the Bell Tolls. You will see why he is so revered. Feminists hate EH, but I am not a Feminist.


Nothing is True and Everything is Possible: Adventures in Modern Russia
Nothing is True and Everything is Possible: Adventures in Modern Russia
by Peter Pomerantsev
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.78

4.0 out of 5 stars Rotten to the Core, 4 Sept. 2016
Yet another Russia book, this one from an insider who made documentaries on all sorts of subjects for Russian TV. No one could be shocked by the goings on here, as Russia is beyond a mafia state. It is a place of unlimited corruption on all levels of society and the depravity on display here is expressed with a tart wit, and cold eye for observation and the knowing wink of the insider who left the loony bin.
One of the better recent efforts, different from the Western accounts as it so knowing and unshockable.

My last one for a while, these are so addictive. Whenever you think the West is corrupt, have a gander at this one.


The Martian [Blu-ray + UV Copy] [2015] [Region Free]
The Martian [Blu-ray + UV Copy] [2015] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Matt Damon
Price: £7.68

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Feet on the Ground, 22 Aug. 2016
Finally, a decent, character driven sic-fi, and from the least likely source - Ridley Scott. The Martian works because of the story derived from the novel and a natural, down to earth performance by Matt Damon.

The story is Robinson Crusoe updated and is none the worse for it. Abandoned on Mars, our hero is a botanist, and so resourceful, he does more than survive the improbable time it takes to rescue him. It is well paced and shot with flair, but no bombast, easily one of Scott's best films.

It carries a decidedly modern, PC message. The white male hero is saved by women, blacks, orientals, Mexicans, etc - an anti-Trump undertone throughout. Two bizarre casting choices by Brit Scott of two of his fellows, Sean Bean and the impossibly named one from 10 Years a Slave. Neither adds a thing to this movie.

So forget Star Wars and Star Trek, this is the kind of sic-fi we've been missing, where effects serve the story and not the other way around. Near great.


The Persuaders: The hidden industry that wants to change your mind
The Persuaders: The hidden industry that wants to change your mind
by James Garvey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.38

0 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Always Irrational, 21 Aug. 2016
Always Irrational

James Garvey's account of modern persuasive techniques is not persuasive. Though he elaborates these practices well, and the book is very informative, he has an academic's repulsion at human nature and how malleable it is. You know you're in trouble from the premise. As a philosopher, he is a champion of reason, but is shocked by how little reason affects people nowadays. We have been highjacked, don't you know, by a veritable army of hidden persuaders who want to short-circuit your reason and influence you to do things you may not want to do.

Garvey hates the modern world with all its intrusions and seems to think we are heading straight to non- rational hell. All I can say is, where do you think we've been? I mean, c'mon - religion - rational, right? All those wonderful St. Augustine reasons for why our fate is wrapped up with Jesus. The perfectly rational Roman Empire? Home of murder, torture, crucifixion, empire. slavery, etc. Or perhaps the British Empire? More slavery, racism, eugenics, coolies, etc. I'm afraid the modern world, which he despises for its consumerism, is less violent, more rational, and much more progressive than the less modern world. He should read the UN Progress on Goals (eliminating poverty and hunger, reducing disease, etc) which has been remarkably successful in the last 20 years. Perhaps Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature, which shows a profound collapse in violence in the last 100 years.

I'm afraid he is a Guardian reading, progress denying moaner who can't stand the fact that academic reasoning appears obsolete even to him. That he has only recently discovered Behavioural Economics and modern marketing shows what an ostrich he is. And his cure? Teach Aristotle again! Fight the intrusion. New, proscriptive legislation. I mean. c'mon. It begins as a useful survey and collapses into a polemic about loss of freedom. Wake up James - we were NEVER rational and never will be


Purity
Purity
by Jonathan Franzen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Filth, 16 Aug. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Purity (Paperback)
Purity it ain't, that much is clear. Jonathan Franzen's fifth novel is a tremendous, complex and difficult moral novel about the truth, money, feminism, transparency and human frailty. It's ironic title, which is also the name of the lead protagonist, is perfect.

If you have read The Corrections and Freedom, you are better prepared to tackle Purity because Franzen is one ambitious writer and this big book exceeds his previous efforts. It is huge - 560+ pages of small type, but they fly by. The writing is effortless, so dazzling in it's simplicity that you sometimes forget how good it is. It is like an airport novel, but with jet fuel. Pip (Purity's handy nickname) needs to find out who she is, as her mother has brought her up in a cabin in the woods, poor as a church mouse. She stumbles into the weird world of Andreas Wolf (in sheep's clothing) a German internet truth-teller (The Sunlight Project). Wolf is one screwed up character, and his offer to help Pip is really a massive, insane revenge plot against Pip's father. As the sections of the novel weave in and out of time, the calamitous truth of her background and the character's motives become clear, your head will spin more than a bit.

While the sections on Wolf are compelling, it is the story of Pip's parents that captured my attention. This twisted love story is really a very revealing excoriation of feminism. The insanity of Pip's mother Anabel, her absolutist personality, her persecution of her husband Tom, her treatment of Pip and her family takes over the novel and never lets go until the very end, and not even then. Franzen embraces feminism as he skewers it.

Wolf is the chief villain of the piece, and Franzen has much to say about the crazy men who drive the internet world. Selfish, paranoid, driven, this 'killer' as he calls himself, tries to fool everyone that he's a truth teller, when the opposite is true. He is the keeper of secrets, a man so lost to reality its a wonder he survives as long as he does. Like Steve Jobs, he is venerated after his bizarre demise for his purity.

Franzen has taken a step up here, the novel is better for its challenging take on big ideas. I gobbled it down like junk food, when it was a 7 course gourmet meal. Wow!


Valdez Is Coming [DVD] (1971)
Valdez Is Coming [DVD] (1971)
Dvd ~ Burt Lancaster
Price: £5.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Valdez is Pancake Flat, 8 Aug. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Elmore Leonard's five star western novel is turned into this two star effort through a combination of terrible casting, poor acting, low budget and awful direction. But it is the casting of Burt Lancaster as Valdez and his execrable performance that make this effort so poor.

To its credit, it tries to stick to the novel, but that doesn't help. Lancaster is far too old, too blue eyed and totally sexless as Valdez. This completely undermines the character. He speaks in a cod Spanish accent for no reason, as he is born in the USA. In the novel, Valdez is 40 not nearly 60, sleeps in a brothel, and falls for the leading lady. He has spunk, but he has learned morals. In the film, he is a clapped out fool who is transformed into an action hero. Perhaps the project was Burt's, his Rooster - John Wayne won his True Grit Oscar a couple of years before.

Susan Clark is also terrible as Gay Erin, the villain's woman - sexless and unbelievable. The villain Frank Tanner, looks like Snidely Whiplash, and el segundo, like a blacked up Santana conga drummer. The film looks cheap, and the direction is point and shoot.

Compared to Hombre, made a few years earlier, it is a disaster. As Leonard often said, he hated most of the films of his books. This is exhibit A.


Americana (Penguin Modern Classics)
Americana (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Don DeLillo
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Leave It All Behind, 3 Aug. 2016
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DeLillo's first novel is stranger even than his later novels. It starts off conventionally (for him) as a story about a young man who rejects success and decides to quit his job and make his own films. It has some great sections and is fascinating but goes badly off the rails in the final act.

An acquired taste, I enjoy his elliptical storytelling and his challenging prose. I don't think this novel represents him at his best. That came in the 1980's and later with White Noise, Underworld and other better, regarded novels. You can see the editor and publisher scratching their heads at this one, it is so good in parts and frankly, dreadful in other parts.

One of my favourite writers, at the beginning of his career, bursting with talent, but not the same judgement as the fully mature writer.


Valdez is Coming
Valdez is Coming
by Elmore Leonard
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Winning Last Round-Up, 3 Aug. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Valdez is Coming (Paperback)
Elmore Leonard's last western is the superb Valdez is Coming, a terse, tense and elegantly constructed story. Leonard concentrated on a segment of Arizona where all his tales are set, and this geographic focus works well here. The sense of place, of the people, of the morality really adds credibility to what could have been throwaway work. Like everything Leonard did in his thrillers, this novel is populated with real, flawed people.

Conflict between flawed heroes and really awful villains is Leonard's stock and trade, and Valdez fits this bill. Valdez is a former soldier who is now a peacemaker. He gets involved with a genuine baddie named Frank Tanner, and they collide a few times before Valdez decides to take definitive action against Tanner. The tough, masculine, non-pc Leonard of 1970 throws in a love story based in abduction, something he would think twice about before binning this today - but it works. Once the real man is released from his civilised shell, he is a irresistible force of nature. Ah, for toehold days, when men were macho.

If you only read one Leonard Western, this is about as good as it gets.


Hombre
Hombre
by Elmore Leonard
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Tough but Tender, 13 July 2016
This review is from: Hombre (Paperback)
Before turning to modern stories, the late, great Leonard wrote westerns and advertising. This 1961 effort, short and sharp, is most familiar as a film with Paul Newman as John Russell. However enjoyable the film, Leonard's muscular tale is a hard boiled gem with a soft centre. It is hard to imagine this without thinking of Paul Newman, his character embodies the character perfectly.

I am a big Leonard fan having consumed dozens of his modern tales, but this is, as yet my first western. His style was not yet set. The humour which elevated his later work is absent. The structure is beginning to form. For those unfamiliar, here it is. A flawed hero confronts a truly evil villain several times before the hero prevails. The language is straight from the street, the collisions brutal and ultimately conclusive. In this story, Russell is the flawed hero in this one. Unlike most of the stories, the ending is tragic rather than celebratory. I'm not sure this works in the context of the novel, but it does not detract too much from the tale.

I will read more of the westerns having read this one. It reminds me that the early 1960's had some great westerns, like True Grit and Little Big Man. This is not as good, but it is good enough to read in a day. You won't forget a word or scene of it, but it lacks the scope and originality of these bigger works. I miss Leonard - but thankfully, he wrote dozens of very good stories, and this is one.


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