To quote another rock memoirist, Mott the Hoople’s Ian Hunter: “Rock ’n’ roll’s a loser’s game / It mesmerizes and I can’t...

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HITLESS WONDER

A LIFE IN MINOR LEAGUE ROCK AND ROLL

From obscurity to music’s majors and back again with the Ohio band Watershed.

Oestreich (Creative Writing/Coastal Carolina Univ.) looks back on the long, checkered career of his power-pop group, which he founded in Columbus, Ohio, in his early teens after attending a Cheap Trick concert with pal Colin Gawel. The narrative seesaws between the band’s salad days—local gigs, indie releases and, finally, a major-label contract with Epic Records—and city-by-city details of a grind-it-out 2007-08 U.S. tour. Watershed never hit it big: Despite a devoted local following and growing airplay, the band was dropped by Epic after a live EP and an expensively produced album. The book follows the band’s fortunes as they regrouped to cut independent releases on shoestring budgets and drive their van from town to far-flung town. The narrative climaxes with a kind of Pyrrhic victory: a rapturously received hometown show in a less-than-half-filled hall. Oestreich has an eye for telling nuance, and his knowing recounting of life in an ascendant band in “the Pros” is juicy stuff. He’s equally adept at depicting day-to-day humiliations in music’s minors, like a pay-to-play gig with a bunch of no-name Baltimore acts. He’s candid about the toll the rock life takes on relationships; his long-suffering mate Kate emerges as the most sympathetic figure in the book. But the author fails to supply a compelling answer to the question almost certainly on every reader’s mind: Why would a bunch of men pushing 40, with families, day jobs and mortgages, continue to haul their gear in and out of run-down rock clubs, often playing for a loss, long after success has eluded them? Oestreich compares Watershed to “an old battleship that doesn’t easily change course,” and offers a few homilies about friendship, brotherhood and sheer love of the game. But neither he nor his sketchily delineated musical comrades-in-arms offer the reader a true understanding of why they continue to ceaselessly travel the rock ’n’ roll road.

To quote another rock memoirist, Mott the Hoople’s Ian Hunter: “Rock ’n’ roll’s a loser’s game / It mesmerizes and I can’t explain.”

Pub Date: June 5, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7627-7924-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Lyons Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2012

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A rather chaotic and messy tale of talent, determination, and success in the world of independent film and TV that hardcore...

LIKE BROTHERS

A quirky inside portrait of brotherhood within the “insane Hollywood system.”

Marx, Coen, Farrelly. Add to that list the Duplass brothers, who have been carving out a place for themselves as writers, directors, producers, and actors (Mark in The League, Jay in Transparent, etc.). In her foreword to this jumpy, eclectic collection of odds and ends, Mindy Kaling writes that the brothers are funny, “woke as hell,” and have a “tireless entrepreneurial spirit that inspires.” The brothers write that the book is “filled with essays on all kinds of things,” which isn’t exactly true. There are some—e.g., a short piece on why the band Air Supply is so good or the value of The Karate Kid Part II (even though “there are so many things wrong with this movie”)—but mostly this is a hodgepodge of autobiographical sketches, lists of favorite movies (actually the same list slightly edited over and over), emails, rough screenplays, advice to young filmmakers, Mark’s short story “The Blowjob,” edited by Jay, comments from their wives, and “Airport” 1-5, in which the brothers make up filmic scenarios inspired by the people they see walking and sitting about. We learn that they grew up outside New Orleans and had great boyhoods. Creative and ambitious kids, they played around with a video recorder their father gave them and started writing little scenarios and filming them. In 1996, they started Duplass Brothers Productions and got to work. We follow them in action as they fail (Vince del Rio) and succeed (Cyrus). They made The Puffy Chair for $10,000 and premiered it at the Sundance Film Festival. Other successes followed, including HBO’s Togetherness series (2015), until cancelled, and Room 104 (2017).

A rather chaotic and messy tale of talent, determination, and success in the world of independent film and TV that hardcore fans will enjoy.

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-101-96771-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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The author’s consistently absorbing commentary on a wide variety of legal cases will require close attention by readers, but...

THE MAKING OF A JUSTICE

REFLECTIONS ON MY FIRST 94 YEARS

The retired Supreme Court justice chronicles his impressive life story, including his 34-year tenure with the court.

Born in 1920, Stevens (Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution, 2014, etc.) recounts his privileged upbringing, early law career, and lower-court experience before providing nearly 400 pages of year-by-year decision-making as a Supreme Court justice. A Republican appointed by President Gerald Ford, Stevens transcended the party ideology of many court colleagues in order to work together with those appointed by Democratic presidents. Despite the conventional wisdom of court chroniclers who identify justices as “conservative” or “liberal,” the author’s majority opinions and dissents cannot be easily pigeonholed. He candidly shares his thought processes on hundreds of cases, often openly criticizing his fellow justices for their lack of legal acumen and/or lack of compassion. Stevens is frequently critical of justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas for the refuge they have sought in the theory of originalism. Refreshingly, though, the author never attacks his fellow justices in a personal, gossipy manner, and he discusses his varying degrees of friendship with each of them. Stevens theorizes that the dynamics of the court—and the nature of the rulings—undergo transformation every time a new justice joins. As a result, the author presents brief sections about the immediate impact of each new justice during his 34 years, ending with his successor in 2010, Elena Kagan. Although Stevens reveres the court’s reputation as a nonpartisan arbiter, he realizes that reputation has never fully recovered from the politically tinged 5-4 ruling in 2000 that handed the presidency to George W. Bush rather than Al Gore. The author also offers searing commentary on cases involving abortion rights, gun control, wrongful convictions in criminal courts, campaign finance, and many other ongoing societal issues.

The author’s consistently absorbing commentary on a wide variety of legal cases will require close attention by readers, but the payoff is worth it.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-48964-5

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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