Books Alive

Posted March 20, 2012 in , ,
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The Book Of Drugs
Mike Doughty
Da Capo Press
Street: 01.10
I’ve been a Soul Coughing fan for a long time. Their unique mix of hip hop, jazz, and pop has always stood out and inspired me as an example of artistic vision. So when former lead singer Doughty writes about the guy “who picked up a memoir of a guy from a band he loves, and it turns out I hate what brought him to this book in the first place,” I am exactly who he’s talking about. His bitterness at the success he wandered into and the people he shared it with was totally surprising at first, but in finishing the book, it started to make sense. Written in a kind of a roughly historical stream of consciousness with no chapter breaks, The Book of Drugs chronicles Doughty’s early life, formation of the band, resulting success and then his break and life after. Through it all—every episode, every memory, every personal association no matter how minor—are the drugs. It’s really less of a band biography and more of an addiction recovery memoir. Rather than being depressing and feeling voyeuristic, Doughty’s tale of eventual recovery and peace actually abounds with moments of humorous, wry, self-deprecating writing, and a sound analysis of the phenomenon of addiction. If you liked the band, like his subsequent solo work, or just like the idea of a rock star getting clean, give this quick read a try. It totally ruined some of the Soul Coughing songs, though.

You can hear excerpts from The Book of Drugs from Mike Doughty himself, along with some musical numbers and a Q&A on April 2 at The State Room.

Everything Is An Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson
Kevin Avery
Street: 11.21.11
Kevin Avery has compiled an incredibly thorough account of one of folk and rock music’s most important critics of the 20th Century: Paul Nelson. Avery reveals Paul Nelson as not just a music critic, but also a true writer who loved his subject matter possibly more than anything else. After reading, I felt that I knew more about Nelson than simply his life’s accomplishments—I knew him as the man he was: an observer who secluded himself with his books, film and music. The first 185 pages chronicle Nelson’s life from his obsession with books as a child and the beginning of his writing and editing career with Sing Out! and the Little Sandy Review, to his final years at Evergreen video when his mind started to go. The pages are strewn with black and white photos of Nelson and his associates, and show the physical changes Nelson went through over the years. The remaining pages include some of Nelson’s published writing about Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne, Neil Young and others, giving the reader a clear picture of Nelson’s immersed, romantic and above all, insightful, writing style that was characteristic of very few other writers of his time.

Author Kevin Avery will be in Salt Lake City for a reading and book signing on Friday, April 13 at the King’s English at 7 p.m. He will then be in Park City on Saturday, April 14 at Dolly’s Bookstore at 6:30 p.m.

Starlight on the Rails
U. Utah Phillips
Dream Garden Press
Starlight on the Rails is a 245-page book documenting the travels and tales of the late, unsung American hero, Utah Phillips, in their truest form: song. The songbook, from Dream Garden Press, is a reprint of the original 1973 version, but with four-times the amount of content, including photographs, illustrations, song introductions and a foreword by Phillips’ son, Duncan. Starlight On The Rails has been an unforgettable book, singing parts of history that couldn’t be heard elsewhere in the resounding voice of American folk music. The songs, which Phillips does not claim any ownership to, recount the things and people known throughout the course of the magical life of a tramp.

Get to know the folk hero, whom Salt Lake is lucky to call its own, yourself at Ken Sanders Rare Books where Starlight On The Rails is exclusively featured, and make sure to clear your calendar for March 24, as Ken Sanders will host a free tribute concert/book release for U. Utah Phillips featuring three local folk bands influenced by Phillips: The Folka Dots, The Trappers and The North Valley.