What should I be doing instead of this?

Rat Girl (Review)

Kristin Hersh [Penguin Books]

0 Comments · Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Kristin Hersh is a known quantity in the Alt-Rock orbit as a solo artist and through her role in the groups Throwing Muses and 50 Foot Wave. Given her extraordinary productivity, perhaps it is not too surprising to see Hersh author a book, and 'Rat Girl' is actually her second of three, starting with 2007's children's book 'Toby Snax' and succeeded by the hardcover book edition of her album 'Crooked' that appeared the day after 'Rat Girl' hit the stands.  

Bill Bryson: King of Curiosity

Prolific author discusses living 'At Home'

0 Comments · Tuesday, November 9, 2010
How did salt and pepper become our default, go-to spices? Why are there four tines on a fork? How did stairs become so ubiquitous? These are just a few of the curiosities explored in Bill Bryson's latest book, 'At Home: A Short History of Private Life.' He discusses his latest literary endeavor with CityBeat in anticipation of his visit here Saturday for the Mercantile Library's annual Niehoff Lecture.   

Newport: The Sin City Years (Review)

Robin Caraway, Arcadia Publishing

0 Comments · Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Back in the 1980s when I was working at the Jockey Club, Newport was in a cultural and financial tailspin. Bereft of its status as a wide open mecca of entertainment and vice, yet still burdened with the sex industry, Newport looked like it was going down for the last count. Newport has since come back in a miraculous way; nevertheless, such transformation never really assuages one's curiosity about the "bad old days."  

Augusten Burroughs Lives Through Words

Writing because he has to, not by choice

0 Comments · Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Writing saved Augusten Burroughs life. Literally. As anyone who's read his 2002 memoir, Running with Scissors, will attest, the guy has led a challenging life informed by a deeply dysfunctional childhood that included a broken family, drugs, alcohol and a sexual relationship with a man twice his age. Burroughs, who comes to town Saturday for the annual Books By the Banks conference, talks about his meteoric rise to literary fame.  

The World of Wayward Comic Book Artist (Review)

Sandy Plunkett, Swallow Press

0 Comments · Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Sandy Plunkett reverses the normal order of things. Instead of languishing through youth somewhere in Ohio, longing for New York, he did his languishing in New York's Upper West Side and came to southeast Ohio to find his creative home. The World of a Wayward Comic Book Artist reflects sketchbook/journals Plunkett has kept since 1992, by which time Athens, Ohio, was his town.  

Out of the Mountains (Review)

Meredith Sue Willis, Ohio Univerisity Press

0 Comments · Wednesday, August 11, 2010
A benefit of our shortened attention spans is the re-emergence of the short story. That pleasurable form of fiction, sliced thinner than a novel but at its best equally compelling, for a decade or two languished out of fashion but returns full of ginger. In Out of the Mountains, Meredith Sue Willis gives her characters the juice of life. Some turn up in more than one story, prompting the pleasure of recognition.  

Me, The Mob and The Music (Review)

Tommy James with Marlin Fitzpatrick, Scribner

0 Comments · Wednesday, July 7, 2010
On the basis of his memorable singles of the late 1960s — records like “I Think We’re Alone Now,” “Mony Mony” and “Crimson and Clover” — Tommy James still tours today. But in concert, where he mines a nostalgic crowd’s desire to relive the good times associated with those hits, he doesn’t get to tell the story of how remarkably strange and extraordinary those times were for him.  

Let Freedom Sing: Of 19th Century Americans (Review)

Vivian B. Kline, Outskirts Press

0 Comments · Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Vivian Kline is a Class A name-dropper. The names she drops — Nicholas Longworth, P.T. Barnum and sister poets Alice and Phoebe Carey among them — have the satisfying clunk of historical import and might mean most to history buffs. Although, if you’re not, this is a good place to begin.  

Neil Young's Greendale (Review)

Josh Desert and Cliff Chiang, Vertigo

0 Comments · Wednesday, June 9, 2010
You might already love Sun Green. You might already love her flowing blonde hair, her activist demeanor and her happy place, the Double E Ranch. She is the center of the Greendale “musical novel” and film, both written and produced by Neil Young.  

David Simon's Total Immersion

'The Wire' and 'Treme' writer/producer gets below the surface of his subjects

0 Comments · Wednesday, June 2, 2010
David Simon's 'The Wire' garnered nearly unprecedented critical praise — by the end of its five-season run on HBO, some were calling it the best show to ever grace television — but drew a fraction of the audience of the cable outlet's other series 'Sex and the City' and 'The Sopranos.' Yet HBO stood behind Simon (and continues to stand behind him, offering his 'Treme' miniseries), a television iconoclast who'd rather walk away than betray the authenticity of his subject matter. Simon answers a few CityBeat questions before his June 7 talk at the Mercantile Library.  

Failure Is Always an Option

Journalist-turned-novelist James Greer discusses his latest book, 'The Failure'

0 Comments · Wednesday, April 28, 2010
James Greer has led a curious life. He first surfaced as an editor and writer at Spin during the magazine's early-'90s apex, a period that coincided with the so-called "Alternative Rock" revolution. His just-published second work of fiction, 'The Failure,' is a fast and funny nonlinear riff on crime-noir novels that tells the story of Guy Forget who plans to rob a Korean check-cashing joint in order to fund a Web-based get-rich-quick scheme.  

Just Kids (Review)

Patti Smith, Ecco

0 Comments · Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Because Patti Smith’s music can be so ferociously turbulent, and because of her Punk legacy, it’s easy to overlook her tender side — one that exudes a charitable, compassionate sweetness and undying loyalty to friends and family as well as awe at the magnificence of great art. Smith wasn’t so much a rebel against post-war middle-class America as a young woman in love with books and music who wanted to be surrounded by them as an alternative to the working-class life she felt awaited her.  

The Kingdom of Ohio (Review)

Matthew Flaming, Amy Einhorn Books

0 Comments · Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Life before the internal combustion engine was no damn fun. That, along with a vague sense of disquiet, is the thrust of The Kingdom of Ohio, the debut novel of possibly former Portlander Matthew Flaming. Flaming builds his story on a solid foundation, filling his characters’ histories with concrete detail. It’s compelling stuff, satisfying despite the novel’s inconclusive and confusing denouement.  

Two Weddings and a Funeral

Novelist Richard Russo discusses his craft

0 Comments · Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Richard Russo's latest, 'That Old Cape Magic,' returns to the novelist's longtime topic of choice: family, and all the endlessly fascinating narrative and dramatic tension that topic allows. Its very Russo-ian protagonist Jack Griffin is going through an existential crisis of sorts, set off by the death of his mother and the marriage of his only daughter.   

The Melting Season (Review)

Jami Attenberg - Riverhead Books

0 Comments · Wednesday, March 3, 2010
In Jami Attenberg’s second novel, Catherine Madison is in her truck heading to Las Vegas. She’s leaving her small Nebraska town, her husband and her dysfunctional family. What she’s keeping is a suitcase full of money. From the start, we realize Catherine is running from something. She’s paying for motel and hotel rooms in cash and signs her maiden name in an attempt to cover her tracks.