Finally finished listening to this as an audio. Meh. I have my problems with it. I may or may not review it, we'll see.
Alright, I've given it some...moreFinally finished listening to this as an audio. Meh. I have my problems with it. I may or may not review it, we'll see.
Alright, I've given it some thought and feel that I should try to capture some of what this book made me feel (and didn't feel as it were). This memoir is essentially two stories that sometimes intersect with each other but more often than not run parallel. One story is Cheryl's 90+ day 1100 mile solo hike of the Pacific Crest Trail when she was 26 years old. The other story is of the tragic death of Cheryl's mother from lung cancer four years previously. That story is one of all-consuming grief, anger, and a downward spiral into dangerous and self-destructive behaviors.
Even though it was the death of her mother which precipitated Cheryl's decision to solo hike the PCT, I felt like the two stories are so very different from each other that it just doesn't work to have both accounts in the same book. I found it jarring each time Cheryl flashbacks to a moment in her pre-PCT life.
Don't get me wrong, both stories interested me. I was eager to read about a crazy girl taking on this extreme physical challenge. I adore man vs. nature tales. And although I found it difficult and somewhat emotionally draining, I also wanted to read about the particulars of Cheryl's grief and the details surrounding her mother's death. I lost my own mother to cancer in July 2010 and I find myself inexplicably hungering for the accounts of other people's experience of such profound tragedy.
The problem I have with the book overall I guess, is that the two stories do not complement each other very well. Some sections in which Cheryl describes the horror of helping her mother die and the depth of the grief which followed are beautifully and honestly written. The scene involving her mother's horse is seared upon my memory.
These sections are at odds however, with Cheryl's account of her selfish, self-destructive behavior after her mother's death. We all grieve differently, and there is no right way. Cheryl's chronic infidelities, drug abuse, and finally her decision to hike the PCT totally inexperienced and extremely ill-equipped I did not find interesting. In fact, it pushed me away rather than drew me in. I felt turned off. It's one thing to do something wholeheartedly rash and stupid and dangerous when you are 26 years old, but to try and wax poetic about it in hindsight in your 40s is not cool. I felt like Cheryl romanticized her hike waaaaaay too much, a reminiscence with rose-colored glasses. Sure she talks about the blisters and the patches of dry skin, the weight loss, the hunger, the thirst, the heat. But she downplays the imminent very real dangers for a happy story that all worked out in the end.
Her PCT hike could have -- should have -- ended quite disastrously. She went about it very naively, with little or no real knowledge or hiking experience. Her mistakes were massive and at times ridiculous. You can choose to laugh about them in retrospect, but the message really should be: kids, don't try this at home. I felt like grown-up Cheryl should have been apologizing for her reckless stunt rather than almost ... bragging about it. Yes, there is a definite tone of bragging and conceit (that can't all be attributed to the audiobook's reader). Maybe that's what turned me off the most, and that is certainly a very subjective, personal response I know.
If you like reading about dysfunctional people as their lives spiral out of control this book may appeal to you. If you like to read about people doing crazy ass stunts then by all means, take on the story of this young woman as she haphazardly and with zealous abandon hikes into the woods with a mammoth pack on her back and boots that are one size too small.
Cheryl's story may inspire you. It did not have that effect on me. (less)
I don't cook, not really. I can make an okay omelet, an edible lasagna, pretty yummy mashed potatoes and gravy ... and that's about it. And it isn't t...more I don't cook, not really. I can make an okay omelet, an edible lasagna, pretty yummy mashed potatoes and gravy ... and that's about it. And it isn't that I'm SO INEPT, I just don't really have the desire to cook. I don't like it. It's not fun for me. But here's the thing -- I LOVE to eat and I LOVE to watch food being prepared. Yes, I'm a food porn addict. I watch the Food Network, I drool over online recipes imagining what things would taste like. But would I ever bother to gather all the ingredients together and assemble said dish in my own kitchen? No way man.
But I'm trying to mend my cookingless ways. Every now and then I'll pick up a larger-than-life gorgeously photographed cookbook with all the best intentions in the world of taking it home and actually putting it to use this time in the kitchen rather than just feeding my porn addiction as I drool over all the pretty pictures. Oh what dew-eyed, misplaced delusion and optimism one gal can suffer from. Countless cookbooks have made it onto my lap, but none have made it into my kitchen (at least not with me there).
I have a sneaky, tingly feeling that this is all about to change thanks to Ree Drummond and her pioneer cooking kitchen ways. Drummond was a city girl living in Los Angeles and on a trip home to Oklahoma was swept off her feet by a living, breathing, working cowboy (he had the boots and hands to prove it). Drummond married "Marlboro Man" and he absconded with her to his cattle ranch which is also a sanctuary for wild Mustangs. Miles away from sushi and double lattes, Drummond learns to cook for burly ranch hands burning 7000 calories before 11 o'clock in the morning -- not to mention a growing brood of ravenous children.
These are recipes I can get behind -- simple, easy, down home stick to your ribs (and your arteries) sumptuous awesomeness. Food all about the flavor; unpretentious fare that doesn't require trips to a specialty grocery store or a certificate from the Culinary Institute of America. Drummond's recipes are not only simple country fare, but she presents each dish step by step accompanied by splendid photography so that even an underachiever like me can get motivated (and succeed) in the kitchen.
Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) is seriously effed up, and that doesn't always equate with being seriously bleeping funny but in her case, this book w...more Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) is seriously effed up, and that doesn't always equate with being seriously bleeping funny but in her case, this book will S-L-A-Y you. I laughed so hard in parts I shed tears (and a little pee I think). Just sayin'. For anyone out there with some incontinence issues already.
Her frantic, stream-of-consciousness delivery (though punctuated with gems of insane hilarity) can get exhausting. Sometimes you just want to scream, "Jenny, will you just shut the *&%@# up already!" -- imagine being stuck in an elevator with a coked up Robin Williams who just also happens to be sipping on a Red Bull laced with vodka. As horrible as that sounds, Jenny Lawson makes it work. Despite her frantic crazy energy, she will make you laugh your ass off, teach you how to curse like a sailor (that woman loves to let the expletives fly), force you to appreciate all of life's absurdities, face tragedy with (enough) dignity, and be grateful for every single blessing that you have.
She also taught me that the most interesting person in the room is probably the one hiding under the table (or in the bathroom) hyperventilating. Only stupid people aren't locked and loaded for the zombie apocalypse (well d'uh, that one I knew already). That chupacabras are REAL. That people who tell you that acupuncture is painless are "complete fucking liars." And most important of all, Texas may be big and beautiful and have awesome BBQ, but it's also where all the bitey, stinging things live.
Today the exterminator came out to spray for scorpions again, and he left a note saying that he found an enormous snakeskin next to our house. Then I screamed, "EVERYTHING IN THE COUNTRY WANTS TO KILL YOU," and Victor told me to go lie down. But then I went to look at the snakeskin, and I was all, "This is a used paper towel." Then Victor said, "Dude. That's totally a snakeskin that's been shed. Look at the diamond scale pattern," and I was all, "That's a textured diamond weave to absorb more wetness. You can tell it's a paper towel because snakeskins aren't square. Or perforated." And I spread it out on the ground and then he was all, "Huh. That is a fucking paper towel. I think we need a new exterminator." We're probably not going to survive the year.
This is the Life. Believe it or not, I haven't forgotten any of it. ~Life, Keith Richards
Well now, there you have it. Who'd have thunk "Keef" would h...more
This is the Life. Believe it or not, I haven't forgotten any of it. ~Life, Keith Richards
Well now, there you have it. Who'd have thunk "Keef" would have lived so long -- he certainly won't be leaving a beautiful corpse when he finally does kick off, that's for sure. And that will probably be from natural causes at this point in his life on the eve of turning seventy, but who the hell knows with this guy? Sure he's laid off the dope, but he's still managing to fall out of trees hard enough to put a crack in his skull, or find himself reaching for a giant tome on the top shelf of his home library and subsequently getting buried under an avalanche of falling books (that one caused him a few broken ribs).
This cat has got more lives than can be counted. Yes, he should be dead, a looooong time ago. That he's not, is astounding. That he can remember most of his life, even the heavy drug years, is more astounding still. That his telling of it should be so engaging and insightful, raucous and unflinching and funny ... well, that astounds me most of all.
I’m not a raving Stones fan, that isn’t what brought me to this autobiography. Sure, there are about 35 of their songs I can sing along to and like many people, there are another 10 I consider to be some of the best rock songs ever written. But I wasn’t born early enough to come of age during the Stones golden era when they were young, ferocious and unstoppable. I wasn’t a “Mick girl” or “Keef girl”. For better or worse, I missed the 60s and 70s, but that doesn’t mean that time in music history doesn’t interest me. It interests me quite a lot actually.
Rock histories and music retrospectives on particular times and places endlessly fascinate me. It’s not enough just to listen to the tunes, I want to know the where, when, who, how and why something was written, recorded, and imbibed. The birth of rock n roll? I want to know the characters, the causes, the culture that spawned it. I want to know when it learned to walk, and then I want to know who made it run. Who was in the engine room? I love hearing about all the little asides and anecdotes about who was where, who saw who perform and then started their own band – the roots of the roots (stretch it back as far as you think you can).
I came to this book hoping I would get a glimpse into that engine room, at all the characters huffing and puffing, fighting and fucking their way along in there, keeping this beast coined Rock n Roll running. Rock n Roll will never die if everyone in the engine room keeps doing their job. In that vein, this book did not disappoint. The first half is a fairly detailed portrait of what was going on in the world of music at the time the Stones stepped onto the world’s stage, how the times were a-changing and people were ready for something different. It’s ironic that what the Stones started out doing was Chicago blues -- what was “different” is that it was now reaching a white audience.
Richards has a very definite opinion on how everything unfolded in his life and in the life of the band (i.e. he didn’t steal Anita from Brian Jones, he rescued her). It may not be the complete truth, but he’s not bullshitting the reader either – it is the truth as he believes it to be. In a lot of ways this is a long conversation with the man that you start in the middle of the afternoon over coffee and don’t finish until dawn the following day when the empty wine bottles lay strewn about you and you have the beginnings of a nasty headache coming on. It’s intimate, forthright, and in your face. There were times I flinched and felt like screaming: “TMI Keith! For godsake, TMI”
I was appalled to hear him so blithely recount his and Anita’s epic drug years, strung out on smack, with two small children in their care. Even after many arrests (and car crashes), it didn’t seem like there was ever any threat of having their kids taken away. When a third baby is born and dies in Anita’s care of supposed “crib death” my stomach rolled over with nausea. Maybe that’s all it was, but maybe it was from junkie neglect. Thank heavens Keith at least had the sense to send his little girl Angela to his mum to love and raise in England. Despite the extremely unconventional upbringing, Keith’s eldest son Marlon seems to be pretty well-adjusted these days with a family of his own. His few reminiscences that are included in the story are not filled with bitterness or anger, but rather with a sardonic humor and a deeply expressed loyalty to his father.
The music bits are really really good and if you’re a guitar player, you’ll even get some awesome tips. Keith’s descriptions of the songwriting process are fascinating too, as well as the realities of recording albums in the pre-digital age. My favourite portion of the book might just be the time the Stones spent in France recording the double album Exile on Main Street. I’ve since found out that a documentary has been made on this very subject called Stones in Exile that I now HAVE to see.
The book does become a bit of a slog in the third act. There are places where Keith begins to ramble a bit and the narrative loses focus. I mean c’mon, you’re not that fascinating bro, how about a little nip and tuck here and there; isn’t that what an editor is for? But overall, I remained completely immersed for the two weeks it took to listen to this unabridged version read by Johnny Depp, Joe Hurley and the man himself. And what begins as a charming and enchanting coming-of-age tale and a young man’s love letter to the power of music eventually does descend into the pit of hedonism and rock star excesses. How could it not? It’s Keith Richards after all. But through all the shit, there is pure, unadulterated love for the music. That I can admire, that I can respect.(less)
I don't read celebrity gossip rags or keep track of who's marrying / divorcing / screwing who at any given time (not that there's anything wrong with...moreI don't read celebrity gossip rags or keep track of who's marrying / divorcing / screwing who at any given time (not that there's anything wrong with that people!). I definitely didn't pick up this memoir of one of Hollywood's all-time pretty boys hoping for a salacious tell-all about who wears women's underwear or who includes small animals in their sex play.
So why the hell did I pick up this book? Several reasons top the list:
1) Reviews promised it offers a poignant, self-deprecating coming-of-age tale in the long shadow of the Hollywood sign (I'm happy to report that's mostly the case).
2) Rob Lowe: yes, I did crush on him when I was a teenager, and lo and behold these many, many years later, I was curious to see what kind of a man he had grown up to be. Not ever having seen one episode of The West Wing or either Austin Powers movies (a ridiculous gap in my pop culture history), I lost track of Mr. Lowe somewhere in the late 80's.
3) I'm a sucker for memoirs that focus a lot on the making of movies. Don't ask me why -- I don't act, have never wanted to make a film, but I love movies as only a fan can and every so often a memoir will come along that captures the magic of movie making in a way that enthralls me. I'm one of those geeks who will listen to director's commentary and "the making of" extra features, not for every movie, but always for the films I love. Should you care, my favorite memoir of this sort is Bruce Campbell's If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor. Bloody brilliant!
So for all of these reasons, I knew pretty early on Rob and I would be spending a few evenings together. I went with the audio version and am so glad I did. Rob's voice is lovely, but he also offers up a pretty decent impersonation of almost every person he has crossed paths with. Not all of them are great, but most are funny, and a few are so spot on they had me rolling with laughter. He certainly had Patrick Swayze down cold. I particularly loved his wry assessment of his super energetic co-star: "he makes Tom Cruise look lobotomized".
I had no idea Rob's early life included close friendships with the Sheen and Penn family. His one anecdote about the first time he meets Martin Sheen is hilarious -- considering Martin is just returned from the jungle and the two year Apocalypse Now drug-induced, frenzied insanity that was that.
There are no earth-shattering confessions. Much of the book reads like a love letter to his long-time wife (a rarity in Hollywood for sure) and children (two sons), and for a man approaching 50, that is as it should be, and I was glad to hear that he chose the road of sobriety and sensibility. Heaven knows it could have gone the other way -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ciFGqXIUPU&feature=relmfu(less)
I love the Post Secret phenomenon. Who knew the act of baring one’s deepest secrets anonymously on a post card would resonate with so many people all...moreI love the Post Secret phenomenon. Who knew the act of baring one’s deepest secrets anonymously on a post card would resonate with so many people all over the world? These sometimes quirky, sometimes tragic, always heartfelt confessions astound me in their beautiful simplicity. Every card is a canvas, where text and images unite in powerful, unassuming ways. Do you have a secret to tell?(less)
Thoroughly fun, thoroughly enjoyable. A quick little read that delivers on some big laughs. Yes, it's gimmicky --even kitschy-- but still worth readin...moreThoroughly fun, thoroughly enjoyable. A quick little read that delivers on some big laughs. Yes, it's gimmicky --even kitschy-- but still worth reading because you will forget about life for awhile .... and laugh, oh my how you will giggle and smirk and snort.(less)
Written in a simple almost childish style, but nevertheless, a compelling, heart-breaking account of life inside the FLDS. The stuff of nightmares act...moreWritten in a simple almost childish style, but nevertheless, a compelling, heart-breaking account of life inside the FLDS. The stuff of nightmares actually. Parts of this book made my blood boil and left me feeling so helpless and frustrated. This is not a book you “enjoy”; rather, one to inform.(less)
Okay, I liked this book, but I didn't love it. It was amusing in parts and Jacobs has a delightfully quirky writing style that kept me engaged and rea...moreOkay, I liked this book, but I didn't love it. It was amusing in parts and Jacobs has a delightfully quirky writing style that kept me engaged and reading. He's a bit of a geek -- who suffers from mild OCD -- but he's also an all-around "nice Jewish boy" doing his best to be a good husband and father. Hence, his dubious ambition to live biblically for a year -- the logic being perhaps living a literal interpretation of the Bible will make him a better person, bring him closer to a God that he cannot admit exists, or at least add an element of spirituality to an otherwise secular life.
It's difficult to take Jacobs' approach with any seriousness -- after all, the changes he makes are temporary and ultimately superficial, because at the bottom of it, all that effort is to serve the writing of another pseudo-memoir that hopefully becomes another NYT bestseller. Let's face it -- this is a bit of an ego trip in a quest for fame that's hardly genuinely holy (and to his credit, I think Jacobs realizes this).
In spite of it all, Jacobs' heart is in the right place and after living his biblical year with gusto, he actually emerges from the experience changed for the better. Not fundamentalist changed (thank God, cause we need another one of those like we need a hole in the head) but a little more thoughtful, patient and thankful for the little things. That's a kind of spirituality I can relate and aspire to.
Jacobs' experiment reminded me that the Bible remains a bedtime story for me -- an interesting, bemusing, text that's caused the world as much grief as it has provided humans comfort. The problem with the Bible is that its messages are too easily twisted to support evil agendas, promote intolerance, and justify cruelty. I'm not a practicing anything and live a pretty much secular life. I think organized religion is fraught with risk and does little to nurture genuine faith and spirituality. But I do long for a more spiritual existence and I imagine to have real belief in a higher power must be very comforting indeed. (less)
I've been on a memoir kick lately and this one by Jennifer Boylan is quite enjoyable. Boylan's irreverent wit knows no boundaries, and her candid desc...moreI've been on a memoir kick lately and this one by Jennifer Boylan is quite enjoyable. Boylan's irreverent wit knows no boundaries, and her candid descriptions of what it was like to grow up as a boy wishing she was a girl revealed to me a heretofore unimagined life. Boylan's plight struck me as heartbreaking - yet her courage and perseverance are ultimately inspiring. What is this life but our search to uncover who we really are and who we really want to be? At its core, Boylan's memoir is an unconventional coming-of-age tale you won't soon forget.
I did not know quite how to assimilate Boylan's numerous encounters with spirits, mists, and otherworldly bumps in the night. In hindsight, even Boylan questions if she really experienced something supernatural, or if it was herself she was haunting all along:
Was it possible, I thought, as I looked at the woman in the mirror, that it was some future version of myself I'd seen here when I was a child? From the very beginning, had I only been haunting myself? (249)
Whatever the case, whether you take the hauntings as literal or metaphorical, Boylan's honesty about her experiences gives the memoir a unique texture that left me questioning my own beliefs in the possibility of an afterlife. (less)