“Linus had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.”
Why do you call this “Currently Reading” if it’s a book review?
I know, I know. I actually finished this about two weeks ago. I know I should call this segment “Finished Reading”, but… whatever. This is still an excellent book and an easy read. Plus, I don’t feel like editing and retagging.
Get a hold of yourself.
What’s it about?
Candice Millard weaves the personal history of President James A. Garfield with the life, and unraveling sanity, of Charles Guiteau, Garfield’s assassin. Garfield – who took office 17 years after Lincoln was shot – was nominated from out of nowhere; he most definitely did not have “presidential fever”. His brief term in office centered his quest to end political patronage. It was this quest to end the ‘jobs for votes’ exchange that led Guiteau to shoot Garfield because he thought he was owed a job that he didn’t get.
what other weird, strange, fascinating or wonderful personalities are in it?
Excellent question. It IS a strange story.
It also involves regretful-inventor-of-the-telephone Alexander Graham Bell (who invented a metal detector to find the bullet in Garfield’s body and was really happiest teaching deaf students), Dr. Joseph Lister (as in Listerine) and his controversial-nowhere-else-but-America ideas about antiseptic procedures (the bullet didn’t kill Garfield, the doctors putting their dirty fingers in the wound did; it’s gross), and Senator Roscoe Conkling of New York (the reigning king of patronage who hated Garfield because Conkling’s considerable power rested in giving jobs to friends in exchange for votes).
It also illustrates the fascinating almost-redemption of Chester A. Arthur, who was the ultimate product of the patronage system. He was Garfield’s no-show, do-nothing vice-president who fiercely prayed for Garfield’s recovery because he, like the rest of America, realized how horribly unqualified he was to become president.
This is a really cool slice of history about a part of American history that doesn’t get much traction.
This is a bit of a lie too. I finished this last weekend.
What’s it about?
The musician. He’s old-ish now, but he wasn’t always.
Why do I care?
Springsteen is one of the most important musical and cultural figures of the 2nd half of the 20th century. He was monstrously huge before you were born.
I used to be a huge Springsteen fan. When I was 14,15,16, his stories of escape from dead-end towns, bad parents, and relationships busted open by circumstances out of control meant everything to me. He was, for all intents and purposes, singing TO me. And he isn’t that great of a technical singer, so I thought I could do what he was doing.
Why should I read it?
Because this isn’t a story about music. Bruce came from where you likely did. Maybe worse. He was dirt poor. It’s a story about survival, resilience, and a refusal to give up, in the personage of a kid born to a bi-polar father, a mom who worked just to hold the house together, a kid trying to fit in who finds his thing when he gets his first guitar.
Bruce’s life reads like an impossible movie and his lyrics, especially in the early days, read like poetry. Even if you don’t like the music, the story is a revelation.
It’s also a warts-and-all bio. Bruce gave access to everyone and told them to speak freely. And boy do they. Bruce has hurt a lot of people, including his own band members, which is why this is a must-read. It’s NOT A fluff piece.
You said you used to be a Springsteen fan. What happened?
It’s not that I don’t like him, but nothing he’s done has matched the intensity of his 2nd, 3rd and 4th albums – The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, Born To Run, and Darkness on the Edge of Town. You should listen to all 3. Wild and Innocent is a street band, all funky getting its sound together. Born To Run is that same band at the peak of its powers, as Bruce sang: “chrome-wheeled, fuel-injected and stepping out over the line”. Darkness is just that. Dark. Hard. Heavy. The sound of a guy who seen the bad side of things, the bad side of life, the bad side of people. But he’s still resilient, beaten but unbroken. “Mister I ain’t a boy, no I’m a man. And I believe in the Promised Land.”
Born To Run, studio
and live in 1975
Jungleland – from Born To Run, performed in 2001 NYC
The story of the kid known as Magic Rat and his death in a street fight
from The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle
4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)
Badlands, from Darkness on the Edge of Town, live in London 2009
This is kind of a lie. I finished this about two weeks ago, but I wanted to start this section off, so I’m starting with a BIG IMPORTANT BOOK. Because I sometimes read trashy fiction and bios.
What’s it about?
It’s about Lincoln, starting in his childhood and going through to his assassination. It’s detailed, richly so. It’s long, but it’s never boring. Goodwin writes using a lot of sourced quotes (all in the bibliography in the back) so it’s less reading ABOUT Lincoln and more like hanging WITH Lincoln. Who, BTW, was a much funnier and cooler guy than he has been given credit for. It’s like a trip back to the 1860’s.
Is it like the movie?
No. I read it because I loved the movie, and the part of the book that the movie is based on is about 7 pages. This is sprawling and will take some time, but the payoff is huge.
How many vampires does he kill?
None. Wrong movie. Lincoln doesn’t sparkle either.
So how was it?
Awesome. 9.5/10. It’s looong, but worth your time. I’d go eBook on this if you can just because of weight. It’s a doorstop.