Mstation Book Reviews
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Wed, 01 Oct 2008


Lucy O'Brien, Madonna: like an icon, Corgi

Your reaction might be - Why would you read that?! Good question! In fact, there are a few reasons: For one, Madonna is a part of recent pop/dance history, and she coincides quite nicely with the putting together of Really Big Music and its current state of whining decline.

For another, she was also part of an interesting club scene in Detroit and New York and in mid-career she had some producers who did some pretty nice work (Orbit, Mirwais) on her songs.

And then there's the question of how such an ordinary singer and actor could reach such commercial heights.

The story's outline will be familiar to lots of people: not especially nice kid from a middle class family looses mother early on, goes a little haywire (by small town standards), gets into clubbing and dance, uses everyone she can get her hands on while searching for her thing, and then, through smart marketing, becomes rich, rich, rich, and famous, famous, etc.

So, why read it, you ask again? Oh OK, you win. (Thunderfinger)

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Le Dossier

trans Sarah Long, Le Dossier How to Survive the English, John Murray

If you're in the mood for a bit of English bashing this could be just the thing but it will give absolutely no joy at all to the likes of Aussie Pommy haters as it will mostly be incomprehensible.

The reason being that the viewpoint is from a Parisian female of supposedly huge brain and with an extremely privileged background - or so the story goes. There's actually a fair chance that this character is made up, but never mind. In any case, the viewpoint is lofty enough to resemble a caricature French person but this is part of the fun.

All the usual culprits get a serve - women's looks and dress (actually, everyone's dress), the manners, the food, the shops (interesting statistic in the book is that 80% of English food is bought in supermarkets whereas the figure for France is 5%), the health system (catch Eurostar home!), the ways of English sex (basic, brutish, and short) which is blamed on Protestants, and of course, there's more, more, more.

It is quite fun and I imagine will be read mostly by English people. (Baron K)

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Desert Island Music

ed. Griel Marcus, Stranded Da Capo Press

It turns out that the lack of literate writing about contemporary music is not a new thing at all. And I don't mean the coverage of the art fringe which is usually more pretentious than actually literate. In the preface to this book mentions the difficulty of finding a place for quality writing circa the late 70's.

The idea here is the desert island disc thing - which one would you take, and why? And so the list is also a bit of a time capsule sent to us from the late 70's. The sort of people that are talked about include the Velvet Underground, Jackson Browne, the Kinks, the Ramones, Van Morrison, and the Stones. There are more!

Who is being talked is interesting of course but how they're talked about is just as interesting - the asides and the sketches of surrounding territory, the descriptions and personal anecdotes. Sometimes you might say it's overdone but mostly it reflects a dialogue between an artist and an intelligent listener.

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