Drugs Are Nice: A Post Punk Memoir
Lisa Crystal Carver
Soft Skull Press
Lisa "Suckdog" Carver seemed to rule the underground world in the 90s. She was the scene queen of one of the first personal zines ever published, Rollerderby. She could've been considered the female counterpart of GG Allin, with she and her first husband's shock-rock performance art show that was violent, sexual and, most of all, demented and repulsive. She was the girl who became a prostitute and never did drugs while on the job so she could experience it clearly. Yet this strong and seemingly independent woman still managed to find herself in an abusive relationship where she was told she couldn't drive and forced to get an abortion. Maybe it had something to do with her caustic childhood; at six years she watched her father throw her sick kittens in a burlap sack and hack them into pieces, only to be told that it was part of life and if she was going to cry about it and be like all other women, she should just go in the house. Drugs Are Nice is a story about alienation and co-dependency. It isn't exactly a happy story; the light at the end of the tunnel is pretty dim, but Lisa emerged from her turbulent youth with a sassy sense of humor about what occurred, which is a good enough ending for me. –Jeanette MosesLanguage of the Blues
The blues are the basis for every kind of popular music there is, and if you're under any other impression, you're wrong. With that established, it makes sense that the words and phrases – the language – would also have a huge impact on popular culture. Language of the Blues is an A-to-Z guide to the significant pieces of language found in blues music. For instance, you would never have called someone a "motherfucker" if it hadn't been used in a blues song. Debra Desalvo has done extensive research to find the origins of famous phrases like the "killing floor" – it comes from a Howlin' Wolf song that was inspired by a night when Wolf's girlfriend thought he'd been unfaithful and shot him out of a second floor window (great stories and odd superstitions are the inspiration for so many blues songs). Other interesting entries are "Voodoo," "Suck Cock," and "Devil." You are also given step-by-step instruction on how to properly sell your soul to the devil to become better guitar player. Although the focus of the book is supposed to be on the language, I got more out of the history of American underground music. This music tells the stories of Southern black history and culture. The greatest thing Desalvo did was guide us back to the music that inspired this book by attaching a list of relevant songs to each entry. No matter how you look at it, Blues is the most influential music movement; it's like the great blues poet and bass player Willie Dixon said, "Blues is the root and the other music is the fruit." –James Orme
Masters of the Comic Book Universe Revealed!
Chicago Review Press
Normally I wouldn't say that cover art makes for fair criticism but goddamn, Masters of the Comic Book Universe Revealed! is one ugly-ass book. Luckily, for Arie Kaplan's sake, this collection of short biographies is relatively appropriate for younger audiences, making it passable to have disheveled fairground caricaturist-esque illustrations of Stan Lee, Will Eisner, and Neil Gaiman bursting (fire included) out of an adolescent boy's comic book ... for Stan Lee at least. Although there's nothing really "revealing" about Gilbert Hernandez' mother encouraging him to pursue comics or Art Spiegelman inserting autobiographical elements of growing up Jewish in his older work, MOFTCBUR! is still somewhat informative. If you're looking for some real fulfilling comic history and criticism I would recommend R.C. Harvey's The Art of the Comic Book: An Aesthetic History. If you're aiming for essays on life in comics, on the other hand, stick to Warren Ellis' Come In Alone. They may not be as directly biographical but you'll definitely feel better about reading them. –Mike Steffen