Last week after work I stopped by Jive Time Records in Fremont to dig through the dollar bins, hoping to find something by Laura Nyro. My search was u...moreLast week after work I stopped by Jive Time Records in Fremont to dig through the dollar bins, hoping to find something by Laura Nyro. My search was unsuccessful, but I did stumble across a used copy of Patti Smith’s 1979 album, Wave, and decided it was time to give her music an honest listen. While he was ringing up my purchase, the cashier said, “Classic album. I have an autographed copy of Easter. She signed it ‘Blame the blame,’ and I just thought that was the coolest.” I put the record on my turntable as soon as I got home, and was entranced from the first few notes of “Frederick.”
I’d only heard good things about Just Kids in the short time since it was released, so when I finished Brooklyn (the same day I bought Wave), I decided I should make it my next read. It’s an autobiography that focuses on her early years in New York City, beginning in 1967 when she was 20 years old, through about 1975 when she released her first album, Horses. It is the story of how she met her friend and fellow artist Robert Mapplethorpe, who died of an AIDS-related illness in 1989, and their struggle to find their individual places within the crowded art world as they scramble just to make ends meet.
“I was getting to know him. He had an absolute confidence in his work and in me, yet he worried incessantly about our future, how we would survive, about money. I felt we were too young to have such cares. I was happy just being free.”
I knew nothing about her life going into this book, shying away from any biographies as I started to delve more into her music over the last few days, so I’m hesitant to share more than just the most basic details here in case anyone else hopes to do the same. I approached her story as if she were a fictional character, and there is definitely enough substance here to do that. From sleeping on porch stoops and living on just cents a day to finding her first semblance of home in the city at the Chelsea Hotel, she faces legitimate struggles—and they aren’t drug-related, as some might expect. A score of famous names make appearances, from Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, to Andy Warhol and Bob Dylan. There are even a few humorous encounters with Salvador Dalí and Allen Ginsberg, who mistakes her for a pretty boy. But the name that means most is Robert Mapplethorpe, and this is as much his story as it is hers. It’s their story, and I don’t think it could have been told any better, as she blends plot-driven narrative with beautiful poetic passages describing the man she loved. Patti is candid and honest in her telling, and it’s a fitting tribute to her blue star.(less)
started running for pretty much the first time in my life about a month and a half ago. Sure, I’d done the one-mile run for the Presidential Fitness...more started running for pretty much the first time in my life about a month and a half ago. Sure, I’d done the one-mile run for the Presidential Fitness Test back in school, but that was literally the extent of my history with the sport. I still don’t completely know why I decided to pick it up recently, but I’m sure part of it was that I’d been feeling extremely lazy and my couch was starting to look a bit too worn out. Now that I’m into it more, I started looking for tips to make me a more efficient runner. Katy suggested this book to me last week, and I was hooked from the start!
Born to Run starts with a simple question: “How come my foot hurts?” What follows is a mix of personal narrative and explanations of various discoveries related to evolution and the science of running. When Christopher McDougall said he wanted to find the answer, he wasn’t kidding. His expansive search took him from respected medical professionals and experienced athletes to perhaps the most authoritative source on the planet: the elusive Tarahumara Indians living in the dangerous Copper Canyon, just across the Texan border in Mexico. He wanted to know how they can run for days with little more on their feet than a sandal, while he could barely get a few miles down the street in some of the most expensive running shoes designed by man. So he went directly to the source, on an adventure that led him meet a cast of characters, including: Caballo Blanco (the White Horse), an American man who shed his old life in favor of living like the Tarahumara; Scott Jurek, the best ultra-marathoner in the world; and Barefoot Ted, a man who jump-started a sort of revolution by finishing the Los Angeles marathon barefoot—and fast enough to qualify for the Boston marathon. Over the course of the book, McDougall goes from running with incredible pain to completing a 50-mile trail race in one of the most dangerous places such a feat can be done, and his account of the journey is both thorough and fascinating.
Yes, this is a running book, so people who participate in, or appreciate, the sport are bound to get the most out of it, but it also contains a genuinely engaging story that ends with one of the the most impressive races you’ve never heard about. I can’t say that I’ve been all that serious about running so far—only going for runs two or three times a week—but this book gave me a lot of ideas and inspiration to help change that. I am also somewhat interested in the idea of strengthening muscles in the feet through the use of Vibrams FiveFingers shoes, and may have to check them out someday.(less)
The new memoir from comedy writer/actress Tina Fey has been receiving a lot of praise, so I decided to include in my reads for the year. Unfortunately...moreThe new memoir from comedy writer/actress Tina Fey has been receiving a lot of praise, so I decided to include in my reads for the year. Unfortunately, I didn’t really love it as much as everyone else! The book follows her life from her childhood in Pennsylvania to Chicago, and then to New York’s 30 Rock, both the address and the show. The book is definitely funny, especially the beginning. I was pretty much laughing out loud after every page, scaring/annoying my sleeping dog in the process. For example, take this quote of her first experience in kindergarten:
“I was so used to being praised and encouraged that when I finished my drawing I held it up to show Alex, who immediately ripped it in half. I didn’t have the language to express my feelings then, but my thoughts were something like “Oh, it’s like that, motherfucker? Got it.” Mrs. Fey’s change-of-life baby had entered the real world.”
“By nineteen, I had found my look. Oversize T-shirts, bike shorts, and wrestling shoes. To prevent the silhouette from being too baggy, I would cinch it at the waist with my fanny pack. I was pretty sure I would wear this look forever. The shirts allowed me to express myself with cool sayings like ‘There’s No Crying in Baseball’ and ‘Universität Heidelberg,’ the bike shorts showed off my muscular legs, and the fanny pack held all my trolley tokens. I was nailing it on a daily basis. Find something like this for yourself as soon as possible.”
However, the book fell short of my general expectations. I thought there would be several behind-the-scenes quips about SNL and 30 Rock, and while there were a few, those sections seemed so rushed! Maybe she was trying to cut out things that she thought everyone already knew, but it seemed like a lot was missing. I don’t know what, because I wasn’t there, but surely there were some funny moments coming up with some of those SNL sketches. Was she worried about writing about her friends? She talks about each of her 30 Rock writers, in turn, so I would assume that’s not it. (Of Donald Glover she says, “…he was our only ‘cool young person’ who could tell us ‘what the kids were listening to these days.’”) One part that she does elaborate on is the circumstances surrounding that first Sarah Palin sketch on SNL in 2008. Apparently she was simultaneously trying to coordinate and film Oprah’s appearance on 30 Rock and plan her daughter’s birthday party while practicing her Alaskan accent and fitting in rehearsals.
Anyway, it’s funny, but, like I said, it seemed incomplete. I liked it, but didn’t love it. It’s good for a quick read, but don’t expect to learn any shocking details about Tina’s life, or to get much gossip on her fellow writers and actors.(less)