Thursday, July 5, 2012

2 Very Different Books

Under The Dome by Stephen King (11/25 Books)
I, obviously, have no idea how writers do it, best selling writers or other wise. I'm not sure of where they're inspiration comes from. But it's interesting how it ebbs and flows, after a few years of floundering (I am sure whatever he was writing was still becoming best sellers) Stephen King puts out two long, and pretty amazing books in a row. Coming in at 1072 pages, this is the story of a small town in Maine where one day a dome appears over it and traps its' denizens in there. These are people that have know each other for years, of course, it being a small town, and the dome becoming a pressure cooker as the good and the bad vie for power, old schemes and old grudges start coming to the fore. What's amazing is that King handles a cast of hundreds with a really deft hand, sure some go by the wayside, but for the most part the people he focuses on are really well drawn. Not to mention the fact that this book, even as long as it is, is an unbelievably tight and quick read, he really ratchets up the tension and propels things forward at a breakneck speed. It's a pretty amazing piece, although the ending is a bit abrupt and some might not buy the explanation of why the dome was there, but if you're already along for the ride, it's a fairly minor quibble. What is interesting is it is all in service to a story that's basically about the power of simple human decency. It's interesting, like I started saying in the beginning, King mentions in his notes that he originally started writing this thing in 1976 and put it away with only 75 pages written, then decided to go back to it later and this what he came up with, it's pretty impressive.

Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm And Blues And The Southern Dream of Freedom  by Peter Guralnick (12/25 books)
For awhile now, Tina had been telling me to read this, and for no real reason, I kept putting it off. But then were watching something on Stax Records and I had a bunch of questions, so she told me to read it again, and I am SO glad I finally did. It is, honestly, one of the best music-related books I have ever read. It is really astonishing to hear about the soul scene that was rising up in the South (and remember this is the late 50's and early 60's so you can imagine that atmosphere people were coming up in) These stories of people like Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, James Brown, and focusing on Stax Records (which was effectively the sort of "flipside" of Motown) It's amazing to read that, almost to a person, how people started in the gospel scene then went on to make "secular" music. And then what they had to endure to make these records possible, and then, of course what would ultimately hurt them, especially in the way how they weren't getting compensated for their music. The chapter on the Stax tour of Europe is both triumphant and at the same time heartbreaking. It goes on and on, but it helps that Pete Guralnick is a fan first, who happens to be able to write abut his favorite subject and artists in a way that expresses that fandom but it doesn't overwhelm the writing. It's a really great read, focusing on a part of soul music that often gets lost to history or overshadowed by what was going in Detroit.


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