Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Keith Richards - Life

Don't go into this one expecting a lighthearted autobiography that you can bang out in a day or two as we've come to expect (or so it seems) from the celebrity type. "Life" at times felt as long as the road Richards is taking us down yet I didn't feel like it was time wasted, because on that road I learned about things i never really expected going in and that, for me, is always a good thing about any type of book.

Keith talks extensively about music; not just the Rolling Stones but the music in his soul, that which has inspired him throughout his lifetime and journey as a musician and a writer. I think the book does a great job of revealing Keith Richards as a true songwriter and not just someone who takes a credit for doing so, a craftsman who bleeds for his craft.

Yes, there is extensive talk of the drugs but not in the way I think I expected to read. It's easy to go into this book thinking it would primarily be a journal of drug use and the after effects - instead, we learn how they became a part of his life and how they affected each area of his life without clouding the telling of those stories to the point where the drugs become the main character.

I feel like there is an automatic perception of Keith Richards that paints him as a very simple guy - almost a caricature of the Rock and Roll druggie stereotype but what this book does, is prove that there is a complexity,  wit, intellect, substance and heart to this guy.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Autobiographical Briefs

I read two autobiographies recently that were highly anticipated for a number of reasons and I thought I would share a few thoughts on each here with all of you.
I saw Rob Lowe on a few of the talk shows while he was out promoting this book. Aside from the stories he told on the talk shows that implied the book might be interesting, being roughly the same age and having watched all of the "Brat Pack" films (because it was something you did in the 80's) and wanting to know more about the culture of that group of people in that time and place - I opted to give this book a read. While it wasn't the worst autobiography of all time, and there were some sincere moments that had a rare humanizing effect on a celebrity, it just didn't ring as a cohesive piece of storytelling for me and I was left feeling like it may have been okay to just leave it be with what I saw on the talk show circuit.
Tina Fey captivated me on SNL and then again on 30 Rock. She's witty, intelligent, and powerful but also has, for me, a remarkable charm that I simply can't get enough of. This book not only offered the story of Tina Fey from then till now but it was punctuated with the witty humor that makes those of us that love her, lover her. I laughed so much while reading this book that I'm smiling just writing about it. Fey doesn't take herself so seriously that she isn't willing to be self-deprecating almost to a fault. If you are a fan of Fey, this is a must read.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Jamie's Italy

I have a crush on Jamie Oliver. Also, I'm Italian.

This is not why I chose to review this book and I promise that I'm not being biased about it either.

For me the glue that binds any cookbook to the recipes inside of them are the pictures. Okay, granted the pictures don't tell you how to cook the meals. HOWEVER, the pictures are what makes the recipe look oh so very nom nom nom.

I bought Julia Child's cookbook because it's French cuisine and it's Julia Child. Also, I had just finished watching the movie Julie & Julia and became very inspired. Upon perusing the recipes, it wasn't just the size of the book or the font of the words that scared me off of it ... it was the lack of photos! And those little pencil drawings do not count. Needless to say, I didn't spend hours pouring over each recipe as I did with Jamie Oliver's book. There was just no appeal to me.

I will admit that what drew me to this book is that it was filled with recipes from my motherland (maybe I am being biased). But, look at the cover of this book. Look at how vibrant the colours are ... they just pop right off the page. And that is what you can expect from the entire book. Every photo shows amazing details of not only the prepared dish, but of the individual ingredients that go into making each dish so mouth-watering.

It doesn't get much better than having a homemade glass of wine with a plate of pasta and enjoying it in some rustic town sitting next to a beaten up VW Beetle. Talk about simple pleasures.

Another aspect of this book that I really enjoyed are the stories that it told ... where the recipes came from ... the origins of the towns he visited ... the stories of the people who live there. He not only brought these meals to life, he brought the little towns to life as well. This wasn't just a cookbook, it was a journey.

If you can appreciate good food, a good cook and fantastic stories and photos, this is the next cookbook you need to have in your kitchen. All of your senses will thank you.

Friday, July 15, 2011


The book “Room” was written by Emma Donoghue.

It’s a book that had me wanting to read it, but for some reason the jacket description wasn’t enough to make me want to purchase it. Also, the fact that it was a hard cover hindered me even more seeing as hard covers are usually more expensive and I had put myself on a strict book budget because my shelves runneth over. But my book club chose this book, which kind of gave me the green light to splurge on the hardcover (you know, since I had no choice – borrowing from the library is pretty much something I’m not willing to do).

As happy as I was to finally have a legit excuse to read this book, I’ve got to say that it took me awhile to get into it. I read the first twenty or so pages and then stopped reading it for a few weeks (also, life got in the way). The language was a little tough to wrap my, oh so intellectual, brain around. It dawned on me that this book was probably written in the voice of five-year old Jack when I read sentences such as, “Ma moves Bunny around real slow to better the picture with his ears and head,” or, “Ma does the hotting up on the two rings of Stove that go read, I’m not allowed touch the knobs because it’s Ma’s job to make sure there’s never a fire like in TV.” In translation? The first one reads, “Ma moves the antennae on the television around until the picture on the television is more clear,” and the second one reads, “Ma turns on the stove so we can cook our dinner.”

Like I said, it took me awhile to get used to this particular voice.

I do believe that telling this story in the voice of a five year old was a good choice. If you noticed in the two sentences above, there are some common nouns that are capitalized as if they were proper nouns. This is because Jack has almost, in a sense, humanized all the objects that were in this room in which he was born and raised. This room was all he knew. His mom (and Old Nick – the protagonist) were the only people he knew. That room and his mother were his life. He knew of nothing beyond that. So stove was not just an object; it was the proper name for the thing that “hots up” his food. Bunny didn’t just fix the picture on the television; it was a part of his life.

The gist of the story is that Old Nick is the person who abducts Jack’s mom. He hides her in this shed that he built specifically for someone he would keep prisoner. He takes her and eventually fathers two children with her (Jack and a stillbirth baby). He limits her world to four walls and a sky light. She tries to escape before Jack is born, but after Jack, her only tactic is survival. She is captured in this room for 7 years. To Jack, this room is his world. It’s all he knows. But to his mom, it is a prison cell. She keeps her spirits up for Jack and tries to make this be a regular life for him since this is her only option. Old Nick at least ensures that their basic needs are met.

Once Jack turns five, his mom starts telling him of the real world. She plots an escape with Jack as the hero. Fortunately, this five-year-old boy with no experience in the outside world pulls it off. The last half of the book is one where she becomes reacquainted with her old life and one where Jack needs to adjust to it.

This book continues to focus on Jack and his outlook on the situation. He finds himself missing Room as, in this (literally) big and scary world, it has become something of a security blanket for him. The book was well written (despite stupid me not realizing it was kid-speak at first). Emma Donoghue did a superb job at capturing all the raw emotion that one would definitely go through if placed in a situation such as this. It shows that in the end, Jack saved his mom … not the other way around. This book proves how strong and resilient one can be even if you don’t have a lot of experience with life. The human spirit is a tough one and it can overcome even the most horrific of events. If you believe in survival and making the most of what you have, then this book is for you.