Mstation Book Reviews
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Sat, 28 Feb 2009

Iggy Pop

Joe Ambrose, Gimme Danger: The Story of Iggy Pop, Omnibus Press

The Ig has turned into a bit of an icon - wild man grandfather of Punk turned into clean-living semi-socialite with a few bucks in the bank for a change. Who would begrudge him that? Or say he wasn't worth a book.

Joe Ambrose does a good job too, taking it from his family background (eccentric but not deprived) and his early-won outsider status. And then right through The Stooges, the Bowie years, and on to the present. It's not a hagiography either - the author sounds much like a Stooges fan and so the Bowie influence isn't something he's ecstatic about and he has a few words to say about Bowie's money-grubbing.

In fact you get a pretty good coverage of a fair bit of Bowie's career just through his proximity to Pop... LA, Berlin, and beyond.

There are quite a few photos as well. (thunderfinger)

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Kevin McCleer, Surferboy, Wrecking Ball Press

Yowzuh!! Cowabunga!! If you know those words, you'll love this book. It's about growing up in LA and getting into surfing amongst its many wonderful, if overcrowded, beaches.

It's called an autobiographical novel but to any surfer it will just be the word. The description of the rites of passage, the waves, the beaches, the people, and the socilogical surrounds is right on the spot for the time he talks about.

The author was also a 'Val' (from the San Fernando Valley and viewed by beach locals a bit like AOLers were viewed on the Net) and so had some problems to overcome including actually getting to the beach and then combating violent localism when he did - but, actually, he seems to have had a comparitively easy ride mostly through the fact that he has some common sense.

If you're a surfer and from LA and now living somewhere else then this book will put a big wide smile on your face while also summoning up some feelings of homesickness. Where else has such a great array of beaches and such great weather? Nah, sorry, Australia doesn't compare in it's totality even if it does have some great spots.

If you're not a surfer, but kind of interested, then you'll know a whole lot more once you've read this.

There is one used copy at Amazon as this goes up. Publishers?

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Bad Monkeys

Matt Ruff, Bad Monkeys, Bloomsbury

Lots of good words have been said about this book including some from Neal Stephenson himself - not that this book is a huge doorstop.

What we have is a world where incorrigibly not nice people are called Bad Monkeys by an organisation who tracks them by super-sophisticated means and kills them on a regular basis.

The Bad Monkeys have an organisation as well and in this story, which races around the place at a great rate, we are kept guessing as to who is who and what's where until the final pages.

It's a fun read.

Bad Monkeys: A Novel (P.S.)

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Watching the English

Kate Fox, Watching the English, Hodder

Ah, Hodder, or rather Hodder and Stoughton as it used to be before it was sold off to the Americans some years ago. It's actually fairly amazing just how much of British publishing disappeared. Gone are the clubby offices and three hour lunches. Quite sad in a way but Hodder has endeavoured to keep its brand alive - and that brand is about Englishness.

People love to read about their own national characteristics - Japanese, English, American, Australian, French amongst many others. It's an enjoyable sort of navel-gazing - "Oh yes, we are like that" *giggle*

And sometimes, in more class bound societies, some might use such books to get a few posh pointers. I wouldn't advise using this one though as it's quite often off the mark or oversimplified.

There's still lots of fun to be had for English people, and perhaps others as well. Kate Fox starts off with the vexatious question of different words for the same item ... which is made even more tricky by the habit of using the "wrong" one to be jokey. It's really best not to play this game at all (and most people don't) unless you were born to it.

There is much more than this though and quite a few giggles to be had and, perhaps, something useful to be learnt. And we can hope that the best of the traditions will somehow muddle through - like good manners. (Baron K)

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