2. I’ve had a strange urge to write about music lately. That’s why I wrote this review of Led Zeppelin’s re-release of the classic 1976 movie/album The Song Remains the Same. I didn’t get to see the reunion in London, but I did have fun writing this article.
3. More about music writing: I love it when authors or critics I discuss in my weekly review of the New York Times Book Review contact me with gripes or other reactions. I recently mocked a Beatles book (because I am a mocker) called Can’t Buy Me Love based on a reviewer’s comments, and author Jonathan Gould emailed me to ask why I would criticize a book I hadn’t seen. This is a fair question, so I requested a review copy and have now read the book.
Jonathan Gould is correct: All You Need is Love is a very satisfying Beatles biography, written with authority and taste. Gould’s best skill is in the deconstruction of individual songs like “Eleanor Rigby” or “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”. He discerns meaning in each detail (for instance, the background vocals in songs like “We Can Work It Out” indicate that the band members are communicating well, whereas the lack of complex background vocals on The White Album means the opposite). I could read Jonathan Gould’s song breakdowns all day, though I was less interested in the historical treatments, maybe just because I’ve read it all before (” … as the jet taxied towards the terminal packed with screaming fans at the newly named JFK Airport …”).
I also have some problems with Gould’s harsh judgement of Yoko Ono, who couldn’t possibly have done the good work she’s done if she were the artistic phony he portrays. He’s also improbably dismissive of the wonderful skiffle singer Lonnie Donegan, who he must be the only person in the world to dislike. Still, small quibbles aside … Can’t Buy Me Love is a solid and well-written Beatles book.
4. Everything happens on Klickitat Street. Here’s Denise Hamilton in the Los Angeles Times visiting the hometown of Beverly Cleary, where it all took place. “Which house was Henry’s? Where was the vacant lot where the kids found discarded boxes of bubble gum to sell at school? Could that mutt be Ribsy’s great-great grandson?”
Minor correction, though: Denise Hamilton asks why Ralph Mouse is the only Beverly Cleary work to ever make it to television. But Ramona was once a series on PBS (though not a very good one).
5. Some poets have been asking me when Action Poetry (our ongoing subterranean creative writing activity here on this site, to which you are invited) will be back on LitKicks. The answer is: soon. I am working on some exciting new software that will make it better than ever. But it’s going to take a little more time, and when it’s ready I’ll be rolling it out in stages. I’m guessing we’ll be back in full swing by mid-January of next year (if everything works correctly, which is a big “if”).
6. I’ve been tagged for a meme by fellow blogger Ed Champion (who, by the way, is running for National Book Critics Circle Board of Directors). The idea here is that you have to list the first sentence of the first blog post of the first day of this month for every month of the past year. I’ve done this below, and here are my main findings: I’m obviously having a rough winter; I’m pretty grumpy; I can write some really long-ass sentences. Hmm, and all this time I thought I was a minimalist. Anyway, here’s my twelve:
December 2007: “We’re having some tech problems here in the Land of Literary Kicks.”
November 2007: “I’m taking a sanity break today; I’ll be back to review the Book Review next weekend.”
October 2007: “Philip Roth’s Shakespeherian-titled Exit Ghost has certainly been kicking up the chatter.”
September 2007: “Bravo to Jim Lewis for an enthusiastic and bracing New York Times Book Review front cover piece that begins like this: Good morning and please listen to me: Denis Johnson is a true American artist, and Tree of Smoke is a tremendous book …”
August 2007: “Yeah, I’m unpleased with the choice of Charles Simic for United States Poet Laureate.”
July 2007: “I’m reviewing today’s New York Times Book Review from a peaceful backyard in rural Indiana, as bullfrogs croak, hummingbirds buzz around my head (did you know that a hummingbird likes to eat half its weight in sugar every day?) and maple trees tower above.”
June 2007: “Walking the vast hangars of Book Expo America 2007, I pause to consider what we can learn from this amazing display of publishing ingenuity.”
May 2007: “I forgot, in yesterday’s post, to post my own response to the question many interesting folks from Richard Ford to Lawrence Ferlinghetti have been answering: why are book reviewers important?”
April 2007: “I can’t complain (and you know I like to complain) about a New York Times Book Review whose cover article informs me about a literary patron and publisher I’d never heard of, jazz-age ocean-liner heiress Nancy Cunard, who apparently published Samuel Beckett, anthologized W. E. B. DuBois, made love with T. S. Eliot and took her political idealism to such an insane extreme that she ultimately lost all her wealth and
most of her friends.”
March 2007: “I checked out Shelfari, a new book-oriented social networking site that’s getting some buzz based on Amazon.com buying a stake.”
February 2007: “Okay, so I’m way way way behind on all the review copies various nice people have been sending me.”
January 2007: “As promised last week, I’ve begun rereading the only known novel featuring late President Gerald Ford in the title, John Updike’s Memories of the Ford Administration, originally published sixteen years after the end of Ford’s presidency.”