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Book Review

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Book Review: Non Fiction

by Lang Reid

Chuck Palahniuk’s collection of what are claimed to be true stories was published this year in paperback format by Jonathan Cape (ISBN 0-224-06302-2) with the title of Non Fiction. Palahniuk has written several novels, including the Fight Club, and that was made into a movie, though he did not actually write the screenplay.

Palahniuk comes from what might be called a dysfunctional family by some psychologists, and his writing is similarly inclined. Some reviewers have referred to it as ‘black humor’ but I did not see much humor in this book, be that of any color. If a humor label must be applied, I would consider it closer to Jewish humor in its genre.

Basically the book is made up of short stories, or episodes, that reflect some parts of his life. These include when he worked as a volunteer escort for a hospice, or when he took steroids to attempt to bulk up. He does not indulge in self-glorification in any of these episodes, in fact quite the reverse, showing self deprecation to the stage of mental self degradation. A disturbing revelation of the writer’s angst.

Each episode is reputedly true, or Non Fiction, as the book’s title proclaims, though I had a little problem getting my head around an event called the Rock Creek Lodge Testicle Festival. However, my trusty Google found 553 references to this bizarre event featuring unbridled public sexual perversity in the country that swooned after Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe accident”. No wonder America has its problems dealing with these two extremes.

When one of the characterizations in the book reveals, “I used to be envious of people who were positive (for HIV). Because I felt like they were living in some enhanced way that I had not yet been able to achieve. This is where sanctity comes in. The whole definition of a saint is somebody who lives as if they’re going to die tonight,” I wonder. All very Freudian, Jungian or whatever psychological dictum you would like to follow. But does it make it great reading? Not in my library for sure.

Palahniuk has the status of a cult writer in the US, but I doubt very much if I would be prepared to queue to listen to his readings on tour, at which, if you believe the spin, scores of people faint at his literary imagery.

There were other problems I had with this book, not the least of which were the quality and the price. The paper stock is around one grade better than a KFC single ply serviette, the jacket appearance is ‘grubby’ (and yes, I know this is deliberate, before his army of fans write in) and finally, at B. 795 this book is hardly a bargain read.

Towards the end of the book, Palahniuk writes of his anguished choices after the murder of his father, “Or will I sit at home, like the police want, take Zoloft and wait for them to call.”

I would suggest the dose he is taking is not enough, and certainly he should not sit by the phone waiting for me to call.


Mott's CD Reviews: Joan Jett and The Blackhearts – Notorious

Drooled by Mott the Dog
Freshened up by Ella Crew

5 Stars *****

Anybody who dismisses Joan Jett and her band, the Blackhearts, as just some little pop band has either never met the lady, never heard one of her albums, never seen the band live, or does not know anything about music. Tommy Price, the band’s drummer, has been with the band for over eighteen years, and you do not get a musician of that quality staying unless something is going on.

Way before joining the Blackhearts, Tommy was a top session drummer who actually played on all of Joan’s early work, but was never a Blackheart till later. Then he joined Blue Oyster Cult, Roger Daltrey, and was with Billy Idol for many years. Tommy finally accepted the gig with Joan after seeing them from backstage at some American festival. He concluded that the band was the equal of the Who live. There is no finer compliment than being compared to Shepherd Bush’s finest.

Many other fine musicians have been in the Blackhearts over the years, to name a few, Kenny Aaronson, ex Bob Dylan; Sammy Hagar, now with John Eddie; Ricky Byrd, ex Ian Hunter Band; Tommy Burns, now the axe player for Billie Joel; and of course long time friend, manager, and mentor Kenny Laguna, ex Martha and the Mandels, who had the original hit which Joan later covered and had another hit with ‘Crimson and Clover.’

But never let it occur to you that Joan Jett is anything less than a one-hundred percent rock ‘n’ roll star. There are the obvious early paying of dues. Joan Jett, together with Lita Ford, was originally a member of the all girl band ‘The Runaways’, put together by Kim Fowler. When that finally imploded in 1978, Joan went across to London, England, to see what was happening. At first she hitched up with the remnants of the Sex Pistols, Steve Jones and Paul Cook (they actually made a demo of ‘I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll). But things were not really happening; the Sex Pistol boys had management hassles, and really were not that keen to get out on the road again after their last depressing experiences. So Joan came back to the American home of rock ‘n’ roll, New York, and hooked up with Kenny Laguna and his wife Meryl.

While Joan was in England and on the final tour with the Runaways, she saw a little known band called the Arrows playing the B-side to their latest hit on a kid’s T.V. show lift off - that song was ‘I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll’. They wouldn’t let Joan record it with the Runaways. Once in the studio with the Lagunas, all that changed. An album was recorded, a red hot young band was put together to go out on the road, and, as they say, the rest is history.

By the end of 1981 ‘I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll’ had been a number one hit all over the world with an eight week stay at the top of the American charts. For the next eight years Joan toured the world to sell out audiences, each album charted, and the hit singles just kept on coming. She formed her own record label called Blackheart Records - naturally.

Until in 1988 she released the ultimate Joan Jett and the Blackhearts album and single. Both went top five across the world. The album ‘Up Your Alley’ is crammed full of Blackheart anthems, whilst the single ‘I Hate Myself For Loving You’ is up there with ‘Brown Sugar’ by the Stones to guarantee to get your party going.

Three years after the release of ‘Up Your Alley’ came this great collection of rock ‘n’ roll, ‘Notorious’ (1991). It opens up with the first single from the album ‘Backlash’. The guitars just jump out of your speakers and the music immediately makes you want to clap along with the band. The lyrics are a tribute to Joan’s heroes of the past, perhaps herself admitting that it was time to take a less forward seat. The girl does have a wicked sense of humor though, when she dumps her man in ‘The Only Good Thing’. You can’t help but feel a little sorry for the poor bloke being shown the door after a poor one night stand performance.

Joan can show that she doesn’t always want the truth herself. In ‘Lie To Me’ she pleads for someone to be kind to her just for one night. But Joan also shows her strong, serious minded side with the song ‘Don’t Surrender’, a touching tribute to her friend Jill Ireland, who had succumbed to the dreaded cancer that year.

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts still play over 150 concerts a year. Joan has also branched out into film work, starring in ‘Light of Day’ with Michael J. Fox, and still finds time to write smash hit singles like ‘House Of Fire’ for Alice Cooper. So do not be surprised if you suddenly see Joan Jett and the Blackhearts crashing back into the charts any day now, and if you have the chance to see them live in concert, do not miss it.

Musicians on Notorious
Joan Jett - Guitar and Vocals
Ricky Byrd - Guitars
Tommy Price - Drums
With additional help from The Uptown Horns, Manny, Caiati, Phil Feit, Paul Westerberg, and the Federal Strings

Songs

Backlash
Ashes To Ashes
The Only Good Thing (You Ever Said Was Goodbye)
Lie To Me
Don’t Surrender
Goodbye
Machismo
Treadin’ Water
I Want You
Wait For Me
A

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