Books

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Tired of California: The Beach Boys’ Holland Revisited

For decades, the story of the Beach Boys has been the story told in the 2015 Brian Wilson biopic Love and Mercy: Brian was the genius who put the band on the map, but a combination of drug addiction and mental illness led to his downfall. Some versions of the story, like the TV movies Summer Dreams and The Beach Boys: An American Family also portray Brian’s “bad-boy” brother, drummer Dennis Wilson, as a doomed romantic figure whose drowning in 1983 cast a pall over the band’s fun-in-the-sun image. While all versions of this story have the band returning to their former glory in one way or another, they also leave out a brief period in the early 1970s when the Beach Boys were producing critically acclaimed albums that barely made a dent in the record charts. This period of dramatic artistic growth culminated in a prolonged visit to the Netherlands, during which the Beach Boys recorded Holland. The story of Holland is the story of a band trying to reinvent itself. Drawing on a wide range of interviews and profiles published in the early 1970s, Tired of California examines the efforts of the Beach Boys to crawl out from under the shadow of their resident genius to become artists in their own right under the controlling eye of their shady publicist-cum-manager Jack Rieley. Commercially disappointing as this effort may have been, it produced some of the most enduring material of the band’s career. Loved by rock legends like Tom Petty and Elvis Costello, Holland proves that the Beach Boys were more than just Brian Wilson’s backing band. They were true artists.

The Grievers

The Grievers is a darkly comic coming of age novel for a generation that’s still struggling to come of age. When Charley Schwartz learns that an old high school pal has committed suicide, he agrees to help his alma mater organize a memorial service to honor his friend’s memory.  Soon, however, devastation turns to disgust as Charley discovers that what matters most to the school is the bottom line.  As the memorial service quickly degenerates into a fundraising fiasco, Charley must also deal with a host of other quandaries including a dead-end job as an anthropomorphic dollar sign, his best friend’s imminent relocation, an intervention with a drug-addled megalomaniac, and his own ongoing crusade to enforce the proper use of apostrophes among the proprietors of local dining establishments.  Desperate to set the world right and keep his own life from spiraling out of control, Charley rages through his days and nights, plotting all the while the ultimate eulogy for his deceased friend and a scathing indictment of a world gone wrong. Now available.

The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom and Party Girl

Audrey Corcoran never dreamed she’d try cocaine, but a year after a bitter divorce, she meets a man named Owen Little who convinces her that a little buzz might be exactly what she needs to lift her spirits. And why not? He’s already turned her on to jazz, and no one in his circle of friends ever thinks twice about getting high. Soon, however, her escalating drug use puts a strain on Audrey’s relationship with her daughters, and she begins to sell cocaine from her home in order to subsidize her habit. By turns horrifying and hilarious, The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom and Party Girl offers a scathing indictment of American consumer culture and the wildly conflicting demands it makes upon women. (Fiction, The Permanent Press, 2011)

The Greatest Show in the Galaxy: The Discerning Fan’s Guide to Doctor Who

greatestshowcoverThis quirky, fascinating volume examines the long-running British sci-fi series Doctor Who and discusses the ways in which the good Doctor’s adventures on exotic and alien worlds teach us what it means to be human. Exploring the weird and wonderful realm of Doctor Who in relation to such contemporary phenomena as cosmetic surgery, consumerism, reality television and road rage, The Greatest Show in the Galaxy demonstrates that the exploits of our favorite time traveler provide us with everything we need to know about life, the universe and everything. A must-read for all fans of the series! (Nonfiction, McFarland, 2007).

Don DeLillo, Jean Baudrillard, and the Consumer Conundrum

delillocoverSince the publication of his first novel, Americana, in 1971, Don DeLillo has been regarded as a preeminent figure of American letters. Among the more prominent themes the author considers throughout his oeuvre is that of consumerism, a topic that is equally essential to the works of French social theorist Jean Baudrillard. Although many critics have glossed the affinities between DeLillo and Baudrillard, this is the first book-length study to explore the relationship between the American author and the French theorist. Bringing DeLillo and Baudrillard into dialogue with each other, this timely volume proffers a sophisticated theoretical framework for understanding the works of both figures, investigates the relationship between works of art and acts of terror, and examines the potential for the individual to survive in the face of the dehumanizing, market-driven forces that dominate the postmodern world. (Nonfiction, Cambria Press, 2008)..

(The price for this one is fairly high. That’s mainly because it’s a reference work marketed to university libraries. If you’re curious to read it, check with a nearby college or university. If they don’t have it, you can always ask them to order it, either as a purchase or through interlibrary loan.)