HELL BENT FOR LEATHER

CONFESSIONS OF A HEAVY METAL ADDICT

Winning blend of headbanging trivia and adolescent fantasia.

Amusing, sweetly ramshackle compendium of a British lad’s heavy-metal memories.

Londoner Hunter’s debut traipses through the cultural funhouse of the 1980s, an era when sleazy, parent-offending metal achieved mainstream prominence. He recalls the enthusiasm first ignited by AC/DC’s “Let’s Get it Up,” when he was ten: “The world suddenly became three dimensional and my ears popped open.” The accessible lasciviousness of AC/DC and KISS provided Hunter with a valuable template, offering this clueless, nerdy adolescent a darker world of rebellion and sexuality. His dreary education became subordinate to his telescoping obsessions with bands like Judas Priest and Manowar, and after learning three guitar chords, he formed his first metal band, the comically inept Armageddon’s Ring. Hunter writes in a digressive style that allows him to track metal’s development from the decayed dreams of the late ’60s, which produced angry powerhouses like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, to the time of his immersion in the genre, when the “New Wave of British Heavy Metal” was ascendant and iconoclastic, imaginative bands like Iron Maiden transcended cult status to become a commercial force. Hunter examines metal’s secret language, encoded in strangely shaped guitars, overwrought soloing, and obscure tour T-shirts, a knowledge key to young fans’ snobbish allegiances. He alternates these passages (and tangential narratives regarding the international thrash/death-metal underground) with the tale of his stumbling musical ambitions. Hunter dropped out of school at 16 and grew his hair obsessively while laboring in bands like eXposed, Noise Royale, and Rag’n’Bones, whose misadventures ricochet off the big time but do make for droll reading. Although the narrative covers territory familiar from previous metal memoirs like Chuck Klosterman’s Fargo Rock City (2001), Hunter’s may be the funniest yet: his self-deprecating British humor highlights the absurdities inherent in the self-serious gloss of metal’s performers and fans capable of remarking with a straight face about Metallica, “What a silly name. . . . They won’t last long.”

Winning blend of headbanging trivia and adolescent fantasia.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2004

ISBN: 0-06-072292-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2004

NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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