Posts Tagged ‘book’

Book Recommendation

Friday, March 12th, 2010

My friend Justin from back home in San Diego wrote a music scene memoir that’s being published by Soft Skull Press, and it’s now up for pre-sale. It’s basically the story of his life growing up in the punk scene. He’s a good dude and plays in some damn fine bands. (The Locust, Swing Kids, Crimson Curse, All Leather, etc.)

Here’s what the bio says about the book, “As an adolescent, Justin Pearson moved with his mother from Shit Creek Phoenix, AZ to sunny San Diego after his father was murdered on Halloween. There, he fell in with a subculture of young musicians playing some of the most original and brutal music in the world. Turns out the chaos of Pearson’s bands–The Locust, Swing Kids, and Some Girls–is nothing compared to the madness of his life. An icon of the West Coast noise and punk scene, Pearson managed to arrive at adulthood by outsmarting skinheads and dodging equally threatening violence at home. Once there, the struggle continued, with Pearson getting beat up on Jerry Springer and, on more than one occasion, chased out of town by ferociously angry audiences. From the Graveyard of the Arousal Industry is the outrageously candid story of Pearson’s life. In loving, meticulous detail, Pearson gives readers the dirt behind each rivalry, riff, and lineup change.”

You should do the man a solid and go buy it here from Powell’s Books.

BIO: Adam Gnade's (guh nah dee) work is released as a series of books and records that share characters and themes; the fiction writing continuing plot-lines left open by the self-described "talking songs" in an attempt to compile a vast, detailed, interconnected, personal history of contemporary American life. Check out recent writing here and songs here. Contact:

List: Good Things in the Greatest Season

Monday, May 4th, 2009

I can’t think of many better things than springtime. Summer’s great but it cheats because it comes after the cushion of spring which makes the transition easier. Spring, of course, follows (what always seems to be) a death-march of a winter season.

This winter wasn’t so bad, but it was long and it was gray and it’s nice to see the sun again.

So in that spirit, here’s a list of some great things to do and check out in the Greatest Season.

1. Chesapeake by James Michener. More than 300 years of life along the Chesapeake Bay. Good thing to sit outside with and feel the sun while you go deep into some historical fiction.

2. 40s. Winter for me was all dark, dark red wine. It’s spring so I’m starting it off with a big bruiser like the one in the photo below.

40 on the dead Xmas tree for winter

40 on the dead Xmas tree for winter

3. Haircut. Give yourself one. Clear-cut your skull and nurture some new-growth forest. (Same goes for your face. How long have you had that beard? Do you even remember what your face looks like Will you look like your dad when you shave it off? Facial hair will always grow back; it’s good like that. Check in with your real face.)

4. “The Gentlest Gentleman” by My Brightest Diamond. Been listening to this on repeat. The MOKB version.

5. Make Your Place by Raleigh Briggs. DIY home-life book. (“Affordable sustainable nesting skills,” says the front cover.) Build a compost heap, make a planting bed, mix up a tincture, beat the Great Depression #II blues.

6. Ditch the bummer music. Look for these HI-NRG positive vibes punks: White Fang. Their album on Marriage Records is called Pure Evil and it’s a party straight through. Especially the track “Green Beanz.” When I hear Erik sing, “I will sing until the day I die/yes, I will sing until the day I die” I’m, like, “YES YES YES.”

Erik from White Fang celebrates t-shirt weather

Erik from White Fang celebrates t-shirt weather

7. Potatoes. Hardly anyone I know has a real job these days and we’re all looking for new ways to get through the same ol’ hard times. Potatoes. They’re cheap, filling, nutritious, and you can add a couple bucks worth of fresh vegetables and make a feast for 10. Last night I collected everybody’s spare change and bought a bag of 30 russet potatoes for $1.79. I added a handful of spinach, two cloves of garlic, and two tomatoes and fried up a massive supper for a bunch of really hungry people.

8. Fresh ginger. Clears your head. Heats up your chest. Easy to shoplift from mega chain stores. Go spring-clean your body.

9. Foxfire book series. Collected Appalachian folk-wisdom, ancient DIY tricks, and general cheap-living how-to’s handed down by people who were alive during the Civil War. Read up on haint and snake lore; build your own dulcimer; learn to keep bees; make soap, etc. First five books (1972-’79) are the best.

Foxfire, holy Foxfire

Foxfire, holy Foxfire

10. Anything by Frederick Douglass. Pure reason and calm-minded eloquence from a time in American history that was anything BUT. Start off the season with a big hot flashlight of genius (1818-1895) that’ll illuminate everything in your path.

Oh, and go outside.

BIO: Adam Gnade's (guh nah dee) work is released as a series of books and records that share characters and themes; the fiction writing continuing plot-lines left open by the self-described "talking songs" in an attempt to compile a vast, detailed, interconnected, personal history of contemporary American life. Check out recent writing here and songs here. Contact:

Slept in Beds

Monday, July 30th, 2007

Slept in Beds
Photos by Nick Zinner
Prose by Zach Lipez
Design by Stacy Wakefield
Evil Twin Press (2003)

I’ve been told to try all sorts of goose-chased remedies for my occasional insomnia; homespun cure-alls like sipping valerian root tea or wearing frozen cotton socks under thick wool ones before bed. I have my own peculiar methods of inducing sleepiness, too. Sometimes I imagine that my bed is a giant seven-layer cake. Each pillowcase, sheet, blanket and afghan oozes into a different flavor and color. Other times I think about all the beds I’ve slept in for more than a month’s time. I’ll picture a classroom globe, then zoom in and connect sleep cities with an unwinding ball of yarn, stopping to tie a knot at each of the places I’ve lived.

I start on the east coast, at an NYU dorm in Union Square with a vinyl mattress that must have been an inch thick. Next there’s that squeaky twin bed in the loft of an old theatre in Muncie, Indiana. The place smelled like must and wet brick and cost $187.50 a month. There’s my aunt’s walk-up in Chicago where we slept in a shagged room in the basement. And there’s the bed stuffed in the corner of an old brothel-turned-guesthouse on Lower Haight in San Francisco where I spent a summer. I used to spook myself before falling asleep, pretending to hear ghosts of burlesque dancers rattle the doorknob to my room.

Sometimes I skim over certain hotel rooms I’ve stayed in, ones that felt both like no-one-has-ever-slept and the-whole-world’s-slept here all at once. Which is very much how it feels to look at Nick Zinner’s photographs in Slept in Beds.

Evil Twin’s small batch, cult classic picture book Slept in Beds (2003) is a collection of travel images by Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) with prose by Zach Lipez. Zinner’s photographs of unmade beds from different hotels he stayed in on tour several years back fill the book’s 38 glossy pages. Twin sisters Stacy Wakefield and Amber Gayle pressed and bound a precious 1,000 copies of the title, and as a sweetly done detail they even snipped the last page of the book out of a bed sheet.

Zinner’s photographs serve as strange comfort for the insomniac. It’s like listening to the radio–most of the time the song is sallow, but sometimes it turns brilliant, becoming the very thing that connects us. Zinner does the same thing with his pictures. It’s the best sort of sleeping pill, seeing places after people rest.

Sara Billups writes the blog Weatherspoon, a diary of living alongside the weather in the Great Northwest.

The Zinester’s Guide to Portland

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

Thinking back, I remember the lost days more than anything—driving from Southeast Portland to Downtown, up into the hills, out to St. John’s looking for something to stake claim to… a good bar, a decent place to find food, somewhere to buy records that didn’t make me feel like a cretin. I’m speaking here of a universal lostness, the heavy and discombobulating displacement in moving to a strange new town and thinking “I’m glad I’m here but… it’s just so big.” Unless you’ve lived in the same place all your life (and if you have, move; go see the country), we’ve all been Axl in the “Welcome to the Jungle” video, stepping off the bus in our hicky clothes and cowboy boots, staring into shop windows, hustled at from alleys—just ridiculously rudderless and confused. A new city—any city—can be daunting.

A huge help for people new to Portland comes as Microcosm Publishing’s The Zinester’s Guide to Portland. Billed as a “low/no budget guide to visiting and living in Portland, Oregon,” it works fine for the former, but it’s new Portlanders that it truly helps. Now in its 4th edition (it started as a 16-page photocopied pamphlet) its 128 pages break down the Portland grid by neighborhood with descriptions of good restaurants, thrift stores, bars, places to loiter, etc.

Says the entry for my favorite cemetery: “Old cemetery filled with pioneers, lumberjacks, beloved mothers, and soldiers. A bit of Portland history in this small cemetery that has some beautiful tombstones, statues, and lots of shady trees. Fun to hang out in day or night.”

An entry on the park by my house reads, “This 643 foot high hill was formed by volcanic activity. In fact, it is an extinct volcano, the only extinct volcano to be found within city limits in the US!” A favorite restaurant of mine gets a mini review: “They make a fine ’n’ dandy bean and cheese burrito that’s only $3.25, but Laughing Planet excels in the art of making ‘fancy burritos,’ using feta cheese, broccoli, jicama, and even SPAM as ingredients (even cactus occasionally!) Tofu, soy cheese, and vegan sour cream are also available.” A local vegan grocery gets some nice words: “Food Fight is a wonderful and brilliant thing.” (These, of course, are all excerpts from longer descriptions.)

It’s conversational, non-exclusive, friendly, and—above all—easy to use. Which is not to say the Zinester’s Guide is like Citysearch. Instead, it gets shoulder-deep into history and local lore, reaching into the guts of its subject and pulling out a hot, wriggling, well-rounded argument as to why (fill in the blank) deserves your time. It also demystifies (the very mystical) Tri-Met public transportation, Northwest bike culture, the public library system—basically anything you need to know as the new kid in town. All cities deserve the same.

To the wrong eyes the book’s title might imply a guide to Portland ’zine culture, but as says editor Shawn Granton in his introduction, “the Zinester’s Guide has never been strictly for ’zinesters. It’s always been about sharing the interesting and unique things that make Stumptown great, and also helping people get by that aren’t swimming in scads of money.” For those of us that can’t so much as dogpaddle most days, this is “community” at its mightiest.

BIO: Adam Gnade's (guh nah dee) work is released as a series of books and records that share characters and themes; the fiction writing continuing plot-lines left open by the self-described "talking songs" in an attempt to compile a vast, detailed, interconnected, personal history of contemporary American life. Check out recent writing here and songs here. Contact:

Deliver Me from Nowhere by Tennessee Jones

Thursday, January 4th, 2007

It’s a gimmick, but it’s a gimmick that works. Tennessee Jones’ Deliver Me from Nowhere takes a hard look at the characters in Bruce Springsteen’s 1982 solo album, Nebraska, and re-imagines their lives. In the first chapter, also called “Nebraska,” we get the story (based on Charlie Starkweather’s 1957 murder spree) of a teenage girl in Lincoln who falls in love with a charming, James Dean-ish sociopath. In the original Springsteen song, we followed the story from the killer’s perspective but here, written from a feminine point of view, it’s given a new optimistic (and utterly confused) angle. “Atlantic City” shows a couple last chancers Greyhounding out to the New Jersey shore to try one final time to make a life for themselves. We meet a guy laid off from the auto plant, drinking himself towards (what he thinks is) joy, and teetering on the brink of some heavy existential blues. There are wild children, dead-serious and frowning teenagers, battles with faith, refinery towers, AM radio, cornfields, trains, slaughtered pigs, sex, baptisms in red rivers, drunks dancing in roadhouses, stories of class struggle and hard work, and lots of American cars; it’s life scooped directly from the Springsteen universe, then expanded upon and wedged into 157 pages, a chapter per song.

The first time I heard Nebraska it was on a drive down the California coast with my old writing mentor. He played it (twice) and talked about how he felt a deep kind of holiness from the last song, “A Reason to Believe.” It’s a quiet and sparse record, mainly acoustic guitar and voice. But just as lean and gloomy as the album is, the book is its dead opposite, flourishing with humid, potent, earthy prose. Set atop a vivid Middle American roadmap, it’s nice, alive-feeling, simple writing anchored to tangible things (nature, landscape, smells, tastes) and it burrows into your head and stays there a while.

After reading the first few chapters, I told a friend that Jones’ descriptions were so vivid, yet at the same time hazy (or maybe gauzy) that I felt as if I was dreaming them instead of reading. It’s that same half-lucid pseudo-dream-state you get when you wake up sweaty in the passenger seat of a car in the dead of summer and everything seems too bright and washed out and all you hear is tires, engine noise, and the tinny, mosquito-ing drone of the radio. Everything’s normal, you know where you are, but what you see and feel is slightly blurred around the edges. Your heart is thumping, your mouth’s dry, and the world slowly refocuses and becomes your place again. It’s these moments between sleep and waking that the best lines in the book exist, those brief instants when your life is a little less real and time slows down and you feel weightless and free of concerns, like your blood is made of pure sunlight and breeze.

I read this book fast—faster than I can remember reading anything in a while. That, I think, is saying something big.

Note: You might have a hard time finding this in bookstores, but it’s available here:

BIO: Adam Gnade's (guh nah dee) work is released as a series of books and records that share characters and themes; the fiction writing continuing plot-lines left open by the self-described "talking songs" in an attempt to compile a vast, detailed, interconnected, personal history of contemporary American life. Check out recent writing here and songs here. Contact: