Books Aloud! – November 2008

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In Persuasion Nation
George Saunders
Riverhead Books
Street: 11.01.05
There is a lot of talk concerning George Saunders' status as the next Vonnegut. To review an author in this way is a disservice to both the comparative and the compared. Saunders is just as brilliant a writer as the late Mr. Vonnegut, but in the way of all authors destined for greatness are. Like Vonnegut, Wallace, Twain or Tolstoy, his work combines the timely with the timeless, the sardonic with the saintly sweet and the unknown with the familiar. With the chameleon-like mastery of voice in My Flamboyant Grandson, the terrifying insight of My Amendment and heart-breaking characterization in Christmas, George Saunders' book In Persuasion Nation is the best collection of short fiction in a decade, and will remain important for many years to come (Hard Boiled Book Club; Sam Weller's 11.25). -JR Boyce

New York Dolls
Photographs by Bob Gruen
Abrams Image
Street: 09.01
It seems only obvious that the story of one of the most, if not the most, visual bands in the history of pop music would be best told through photographs. The Dolls really wanted to give the audience something they hadn't seen before. I'm sure that many people had never seen a band dress all femmy before, (glam, as it would later be called) but the Dolls were more than that they were dangerous. They were the band that if your dad saw the album cover, you might get a beating for it. These photos by Bob Gruen show that this was a band that was coming after you. Whether it was David Johansen's make-up or Johnny Thunders' teased out hair on the Dolls intended to intrigue or repulse. Gruen met the Dolls less than a year into their journey as a band and recognized that they were going to show the world something. He was smart to capture all these moments on his camera. This book is the first photo collection of the New York Dolls, and includes interviews with band members, a forward by David Johansen and an afterword by Morrissey. No matter what you want to label the Dolls, this book shows the band for what they truly were rock and roll. -James Orme

Please God Save Us
Derek Hess and Kent Smith
Strhess Press
Street: 07.08
We're all irritated with U.S leaders and the Christian right telling us how to vote on Proposition 8, but do we say anything more about it than "this sucks"? Fortunately, Kent Smith can, and does so in an educated and rational manner. He addresses everything from Dick Cheney's Halliburton debacle, the cost per day of the Iraq war, the perversion of Christianity's original message, reasons behind the continual veto of stem cell research and lighter topics such as why Santa and SpongeBob were blacklisted, and Jimmy Buffett being as evil as Slayer in Tipper Gore's eyes. More than just a complement, Derek Hess's brilliantly messy and melancholic Ashley Wood meets Bill Sinkiewicz-style paintings, sketches and collages (often using the Red Elephant as his subject) appear on each page, echoing Smith's words (and vice-versa). If the publishers of Ad Busters worked in cohesion and employed a shit-hot illustrator, the result would be this book. -Dave Madden

You Idiot: The First Book
Nate Gangelhoff
Arsenic Books
Street: 09.22
Are you the type of person who jolts awake at night to think about products such as the Armor of God pajamas and who would come up with such an idea? Do you delete spam messages that detail how to make terrific sums of money then sulk over your lack of faith? Have you passed on pyramid schemes then sulked for weeks over the "what if" of the matter? Were you a kid whose extracurricular activities were guided by anti-Satanic parents and teachers who found Beelzebub at every turn (i.e. Journey albums)? Or are you just searching for the lyrics to the anti-drug rap, "Zip Zap Rap," by Devastatin' Dave (a.k.a. The Turntable Slave)? Compiled from Nate Gangelhoff's 'zine of the same name, You Idiot explores these topics, the author often plunging head first even trying his hand as a diet pill salesperson so you won't have to. -Dave Madden