EVERYBODY LOVES OUR TOWN

AN ORAL HISTORY OF GRUNGE

A harsh, harrowing, gritty examination of Seattle's finest rockers.

When most music fans think “grunge,” they justifiably think Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, not necessarily in that order. With this massive oral history, former Blender senior editor Yarm also hips readers to such bands as the U-Men, Cat Butt and TAD. Because the bands' respective members are so engaging and insightful during their interviews, readers will probably fire up their iTunes to find out what these groups were about—which, we discover, was fearlessness. Their music was punk-soaked, angry and defiantly off-kilter, and they weren't afraid to set a stage on fire, incite a crowd or imbibe everything that could be imbibed. Readers will also learn about the semi-rises and painful falls of groups like Mother Love Bone, the Melvins and Screaming Trees through the voices of Mark Lanegan and Buzz Osborne, among many others who tell one hell of a story. The book is at once celebratory and heartbreaking, but what takes it to the next level are its underlying themes, specifically those of jealousy and self-abuse. At the beginning of the grunge movement—important note: Everybody in Seattle hated the word “grunge”—there was a familial, supportive atmosphere that went out the window once certain bands experienced what their rivals/brethren believed to be undeserved success. (Suffice it to say that it's probably best not to mention Candlebox to any Seattle-ite music nerd.) The number of drug-related deaths in the scene was such that one would assume lessons would have been learned. Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case: Alice in Chains bassist Mike Starr—one of the narrative’s most memorable voices—died of an overdose soon after the book was completed, a sad coda to a book that pays homage the beauty and horror of modern rock. Yarm's affectionate, gossipy, detailed look at the highs and lows of the contemporary Seattle music scene is one of the most essential rock books of recent years.

 

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-46443-9

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Crown Archetype

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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SLEEPERS

An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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