Archive for the ‘1970s’ Tag

Rock n’Roll Never Dies   Leave a comment

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Drugs, sex and rock n’ roll are major players in this novel recounting the history of a popular ‘70s band Daisy Jones & the Six.  Taylor Jenkins Reid’s work is formatted like a documentary film with perspectives provided by the various personalities involved in the band and its past. Although the story may sound similar to that of actual groups, it is fiction.

Initially, the style is off-putting. There’s no single narrator. Instead, members of the band, old boyfriends, rock critics, musicians in other groups, close friends, spouses (and more) have a say. Their memories create the images of the characters and situations. Ultimately, it works.

As told through the eyes of others, readers learn about Daisy’s early family life, her entrée as a groupie in the LA music scene and her reckless lifestyle. She’s a force with a beautiful voice and a talent for writing songs. Across the country, Billy Dunne and his younger brother Graham form a rock band, mostly playing gigs in bars. Billy is also a song writer, and unquestionably the band’s leader. The Six, representing the number in the group, slowly makes a name for itself and lands a record deal.

The narrative addresses the demons in Billy and Daisy’s lives, along with their personal and professional successes. Along the way, vulnerabilities, compassion and disdain are among the feelings the author exposes.

Music is the backdrop, from recording studios to packed auditoriums when the band tours. Yet, it’s the personalities of the characters that create the loudest impact.

Daisy Jones & the Six

Four Bookmarks

Ballantine Books, 2019

355 pages

As the Crows Fly   Leave a comment

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The Atomic Weight of Love begs the question: how heavy is love? Elizabeth J.Church’s novel has war as its bookends: World War II and Vietnam. The passage of time reflects changes in attitudes toward conflict and women.

Meridian Wallace is a brilliant, young student interested in pursuing not only a college education, but an advanced degree in ornithology. This is unusual in 1940s Chicago. While at university she meets and falls in love with professor Alden Whetstone, who is secretly involved with the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, N.M. Although he can’t reveal his research, he convinces Meridian to postpone her studies, move across the country and marry him. There will be plenty of time later to pick up where she left off academically. Ha!

Alden’s commitment to his work and the slow disintegration of a loving relationship could seem a cliché. Yet, Meridian manages to flourish even when the attitudes of the day bear down on her. On her own, she continues to study birds without the benefit of academic resources, she makes a few friends despite being ostracized for not having a doctoral degree like most of the wives in her community. Although they are well-educated they do nothing with their education.

Meridian falls in love with a much younger man but maintains the façade of her marriage with Alden, who becomes increasingly narrow-minded and unlikable as the novel progresses.

The author is masterful in the transformation she ascribes to Meridian and the world around her.

The Atomic Weight of Love
Five Bookmarks
Algonquin Books, 2016
352 pages

Artistic Personas   1 comment

Even if you aren’t necessarily a fan of Patti Smith or Robert Mapplethorpe, Smith’s memoir, Just Kids, is more than an autobiographical look at the relationship between the two artists. It also examines life and culture in the late 1960s and 1970s.

I’m just young enough that Smith was never on my radar when I was growing up. And, I’m just old enough to be aware of the controversy caused by a retrospective of Mapplethorpe’s work with the National Endowment for the Arts – long after his death. I might have skipped this book if not for a friend’s recommendation. I read it, and I’m glad.

Smith and Mapplethorpe met and lived together in New York City when they were  kids (twenty-year-olds) at a time when the underground music and art scenes were beginning to materialize. Their timing was perfect: she became part of the former and he part of the latter. Their paths crossed with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Todd Rundgren, Sam Shepard, Andy Warhol and many others.

Just Kids reflects the impressive strength of friendship Smith and Mapplethorpe created with one another. This is a love story, even though each went on to have different partners; it’s also Smith’s homage to her late friend and the era in which they emerged. Her voice is honest and unrestrained. It’s easy to imagine the romance of their early lives as they lived hand-to-mouth, meeting other up-and-coming artists all while discovering their own artistic personas.

Just Kids
Three-and-a-half Bookmarks
HarperCollins, 2010
283 pages

Posted August 26, 2012 by bluepagespecial in Books, Reviews

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