Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Miles: The Autobiography

Miles: The Autobiography by Miles Davis, with Quincy Troupe, 441 pages.
The 1989 autobiography of the great jazz musician was a fascinating read / listen. Davis was born in East St. Louis in 1926. His father was a dentist and a pillar of the community, a man who gave Davis much needed support throughout his life.
Davis is bluntly honest about race in America, and the racism he faced throughout his life. He was (Davis died two years after this book was published, in 1991) not a man who would put up with the disrespect of others. Davis is also very forthright with his opinions of other musicians, and he played with every great musician of the second half of the 20th century. He was close to Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, though his relationship with Parker deteriorated as Parker's life spun out of control.
Davis also discusses without flinching his own problems with drugs, including his lengthy battle with heroin addiction. The book was co-written with St. Louis luminary, Quincey Troupe.
I chose to listen to this book because I am on a Dion Graham kick lately. I don't think I would have picked this book up and read it now, otherwise. Graham does a phenomenal job of becoming Miles Davis, at least I believed he was Davis. Graham is a great narrator.

Humans of London

Humans of London by Cathy Teesdale, 224 pages.
A collection of photos and mini-biographies of people living in and around London. Based on the 2010 "Humans of New York" project, Teesdale and her colleagues interview and photograph residents and visitors in the Greater London area (their Facebook page,since they were the third or fourth London-based group settled on "Humans of Greater London" or HOGL).
The photos are beautiful and the stories are poignant and moving.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Lillian Boxfish takes a walk

Lillian Boxfish takes a walk / Kathleen Rooney, read by Xe Sand, 287 pgs.

Lillian is 84 or 85 if you add back that year she has been lying about for a LONG time.  She is still living in New York, the city she moved to in her twenties and has loved ever since.  She came as a youngster and made her mark.  At one time, she was the highest paid woman in advertising, she is a published poet and a force.  Now, in her old age, she has fewer remaining friends and acquaintances but is certainly not opposed to making new ones.  She is walking on New Year's eve.  First going to her planned dinner and then probably home but instead, she continues on.  She meets new people and she reminisces about her life, her loves, the good times and the bad.  We learn a lot about Lillian on this walk.  Mostly we learn that she is an interesting woman who has seen a lot and knows a lot.

I listened to the audio version and Xe Sand does a great job of capturing Lillian's voice.  I also enjoyed the interview with the author at the end of the audio where I learned Lillian is based on a real person, Margaret Fishback whose papers were donated to Duke University. A great listen.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Gwendy's Button Box

Gwendy's Button Box by Stephen King & Richard Chizmar  164 pp.

I am not a fan of Stephen King's books with the exception of The Green Mile but this little novella sounded intriguing. At the start of the story it is the summer before Gwendy enters middle school. In an effort to delete the nickname "Goodyear" (as in blimp) she has been climbing the "Suicide Stairs" up to Castle View daily. On one trip up the bluff she meets a strange man who gives her the mysterious "button box". The box has several colored buttons and a lever. The red button dispenses intricate chocolates. The lever gives vintage uncirculated silver dollars. After Gwendy takes possession of the box her life changes in many ways for the good and bad until the man returns and she willingly gives it up. An intriguing story. And did she really cause the Jonestown Massacre in Guyana?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The brutal telling, by Louise Penny



Treating ourselves to two Louise Penny novels while on vacation.  This is the fifth in the series and we’re back on familiar ground in Three Pines, which as I have said elsewhere is a bit like Brigadoon – only it surfaces when murder is afoot.  The old Hadley house, which is almost as much of a character as the angry old poet Ruth and her pet duck, Rosa, makes another appearance as well.  An unidentified man is found dead in Gabri and Olivier’s bistro.  It soon becomes suspected that he was killed elsewhere and planted there to ruin their business.  The old Hadley house is no longer a nightmare haunted place, but is being refurbished as a tony spa and boutique hotel – is this competition why a dead man is placed in the bistro?  Great characters and atmosphere.  372 pp.

A rule against murder, by Louise Penny



Even when Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, head of the homicide department in Montreal, is on vacation celebrating his anniversary with his wife Reine-Marie, murder follows him to the remote and unique Manoir Bellechasse.  An extended family is also vacationing there, and one of them comes to a bizarre end.  The first of the series to be set away from the charming village of Three Pines, the new locale works well with the mystery.  And two of the villagers, the artists Peter and Clara Morrow, are on the scene too.  As always, the characters – and the descriptions of delicious meals – are a delight and the plot is complex.  The series just keeps getting better.  321 pp.

The accomplished guest, by Ann Beattie



Ann Beattie is herself an accomplished and well-regarded author.  But I didn’t want to invite any of these guests in my home.  Aging, loss, and even violence permeate the collection.  Each story made me a little more depressed than the one before no matter how well-written.  270 pp.