Saturday, October 18, 2014

In My TBR Stack:

Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood
William J. Mann
Harper Books
Hardcover

From the publisher's website:

The Day of the Locust meets The Devil in the White City and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil in this juicy, untold Hollywood story: an addictive true tale of ambition, scandal, intrigue, murder, and the creation of the modern film industry.

By 1920, the movies had suddenly become America’s new favorite pastime, and one of the nation’s largest industries. Never before had a medium possessed such power to influence. Yet Hollywood’s glittering ascendency was threatened by a string of headline-grabbing tragedies—including the murder of William Desmond Taylor, the popular president of the Motion Picture Directors Association, a legendary crime that has remained unsolved until now.

In a fiendishly involving narrative, bestselling Hollywood chronicler William J. Mann draws on a rich host of sources, including recently released FBI files, to unpack the story of the enigmatic Taylor and the diverse cast that surrounded him—including three beautiful, ambitious actresses; a grasping stage mother; a devoted valet; and a gang of two-bit thugs, any of whom might have fired the fatal bullet. And overseeing this entire landscape of intrigue was Adolph Zukor, the brilliant and ruthless founder of Paramount, locked in a struggle for control of the industry and desperate to conceal the truth about the crime. Along the way, Mann brings to life Los Angeles in the Roaring Twenties: a sparkling yet schizophrenic town filled with party girls, drug dealers, religious zealots, newly-minted legends and starlets already past their prime—a dangerous place where the powerful could still run afoul of the desperate.


A true story recreated with the suspense of a novel, Tinseltown is the work of a storyteller at the peak of his powers—and the solution to a crime that has stumped detectives and historians for nearly a century.

Friday, October 17, 2014

On My Radar:

Even This I Get to Experience
Norman Lear
Penguin Press
Hardcover

From the publisher's website:

In my ninety-plus years I’ve lived a multitude of lives. In the course of all these lives, I had a front-row seat at the birth of television; wrote, produced, created, or developed more than a hundred shows; had nine on the air at the same time; founded the 300,000-member liberal advocacy group People For the American Way; was labeled the “no. 1 enemy of the American family” by Jerry Falwell; made it onto Richard Nixon’s “Enemies List”; was presented with the National Medal of the Arts by President Clinton; purchased an original copy of the Declaration of Independence and toured it for ten years in all fifty states; blew a fortune in a series of bad investments in failing businesses; and reached a point where I was informed we might even have to sell our home. Having heard that we’d fallen into such dire straits, my son-in-law phoned me and asked how I was feeling. My answer was, “Terrible, of course,” but then I added, “but I must be crazy, because despite all that’s happened, I keep hearing this inner voice saying, ‘Even this I get to experience.’”

Norman Lear’s work is legendary. The renowned creator of such iconic television programs as All in the Family; Maude; Good Times; The Jeffersons; and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Lear remade our television culture from the ground up. At their peak, his programs were viewed by 120 million people a week, with stories that dealt with the most serious issues of the day—racism, poverty, abortion —yet still left audiences howling with laughter. In EVEN THIS I GET TO EXPERIENCE, Lear opens up with all the candor, humor, and wisdom to be expected from one of America’s greatest living storytellers.

But TV and politics are only a fraction of the tale. Lear’s early years were grounded in the harshness of the Great Depression, and further complicated by his parents’ vivid personalities. The imprisonment of Lear’s father, a believer in the get-rich-quick scheme, colored his son’s childhood. During this absence, Lear’s mother left her son to live with relatives. Lear’s comic gifts were put to good use during this hard time, even as they would be decadeslater during World War II, when Lear produced and staged a variety show for his fellow airmen in addition to flying fifty bombing missions.

After the war, Lear tried his hand at publicity in New York before setting out for Los Angeles in 1949. A lucky break had a powerful agent in the audience the night Danny Thomas performed a nightclub routine written by Lear, and within days his career in television began. Before long his work with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis (and later Martha Raye and George Gobel) made him the highest-paid comedy writer in the country, and he was spending his summers with the likes of Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks. Movies followed, and soon he was making films starring Frank Sinatra, Dick Van Dyke, and Jason Robards. Then came the ’70s, and Lear’s unprecedented string of TV hits.


Married three times and the father of six children ranging in age from nineteen to sixty-eight, Lear’s penetrating look at family life, parenthood, and marriage is a volume in itself. A memoir as touching, funny, and remarkable as any of Lear’s countless artistic creations, EVEN THIS I GET TO EXPERIENCE is nothing less than a profound gift, endlessly readable and characteristically unforgettable.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

In My TBR Stack:

Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll
Peter Bebergal
Tarcher Penguin
Hardcover

From the publisher's website:

This epic cultural and historical odyssey unearths the full influence of occult traditions on rock and roll—from the Beatles to Black Sabbath—and shows how the marriage between mysticism and music changed our world.

From the hoodoo-inspired sounds of Elvis Presley to the Eastern odysseys of George Harrison, from the dark dalliances of Led Zeppelin to the Masonic imagery of today’s hip-hop scene, the occult has long breathed life into rock and hip-hop—and, indeed, esoteric and supernatural traditions are a key ingredient behind the emergence and development of rock and roll. 

With vivid storytelling and laser-sharp analysis, writer and critic Peter Bebergal illuminates this web of influences to produce the definitive work on how the occult shaped—and saved—popular music.


As Bebergal explains, occult and mystical ideals gave rock and roll its heart and purpose, making rock into more than just backbeat music, but into a cultural revolution of political, spiritual, sexual, and social liberation.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

In My TBR Stack:

Unaccountable: How Anti-Corruption Watchdogs and Lobbyists Sabotaged America's Finance, Freedom, and Security
Janine Wedel
Pegasus Books
Hardcover

From the publisher's website:

A groundbreaking book that challenges Americans to reevaluate our views on how a new and more sophisticated style of corruption and private interests have infiltrated every level of society.
From the Tea Party to Occupy Wall Street, however divergent their political views, these groups seem united by one thing: outrage over a system of power and influence that they feel has stolen their livelihoods and liberties. Increasingly, protesters on both ends of the political spectrum and the media are using the word “corrupt” to describe an elusory system of power that has shed any accountability to those it was meant to help and govern.

But what does corruption and unaccountability mean in today’s world? It is far more toxic and deeply rooted than bribery. Advisors, strategists and other private contractors, which make up an ever-increasing share of the government, act in the best interests of their company, versus beholden to the tax payer.  Foreign governments with a history of human rights violations, military coups, and more, hire American public relation firms to suppress reports and search results for their crimes.  Investigative journalism has been replaced by "truthiness."  From Super PACs pouring secret money into our election system, to companies buying better ratings from Standard & Poors, or the extreme influence of lobbyists in congress, all are embody a “new corruption” and remain unaccountable to our society’s supposed watchdogs, which sit idly alongside the same groups that have brought the government, business and much of the military in to their pocket. 

Janine Wedel is the author of Shadow Elite (Basic Books). Wedel has written for the New York Times, Financial Times, Washington Post, The Nation, Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, Politico, and Salon, among others. She is a professor in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University and has been a senior research fellow at the New America Foundation.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Available Now:

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride
Hardcover

Filled with insider stories which only serve to make the movie even better after all these years, As You Wish, is a gift to fans of Rob Reiners iconic flick.  You might want to buy a handful of these books and gift them to all your friends who love the movie.  Trust me, there are many.  



From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner.

The Princess Bride has been a family favorite for close to three decades. Ranked by the American Film Institute as one of the top 100 Greatest Love Stories and by the Writers Guild of America as one of the top 100 screenplays of all time, The Princess Bride will continue to resonate with audiences for years to come.

Cary Elwes was inspired to share his memories and give fans an unprecedented look into the creation of the film while participating in the twenty-fifth anniversary cast reunion. In As You Wish he has created an enchanting experience; in addition to never-before seen photos and interviews with his fellow cast mates, there are plenty of set secrets and backstage stories.

With a foreword by Rob Reiner and a limited edition original poster by acclaimed artist Shepard Fairey, As You Wish is a must-have for all fans of this beloved film.

Friday, October 10, 2014

On My Radar:

Andy Kaufman: The Truth, Finally
Bob Zmuda & Lynne Margulies
BenBella Books
Hardcover

From the publisher's website:

For the first time ever, the two people who knew Andy Kaufman best open up about the most enigmatic artist of our generation.
Comedian and Taxi star Andy Kaufman, known for his crazy antics on screen and off, was the ultimate prankster, delighting audiences with his Elvis and Mighty Mouse impressions while also antagonizing them with his wrestling and lounge lizard alter ego, Tony Clifton. In 1984, some say he died while others believe he performed the ultimate vanishing act.
At last, in Andy Kaufman: The Truth, Finally, Bob Zmuda, Andy’s writer and best friend, and Lynn Margulies, the love of Andy’s life, reveal all, including surprising secrets that Andy made Lynne and Bob promise never to tell until both of his parents had died.
Hilarious and poignant, this book separates fact from fiction, and includes a candid inside take on the Milos Forman film Man on the Moon, which starred Jim Carrey as Andy, Paul Giamatti as Zmuda, Courtney Love as Margulies and Danny DeVito as Andy’s manager, George Shapiro. Zmuda and Margulies reveal what was truthful and what wasn’t and share their behind-the-scenes Kaufmanesque antics they concocted with actor Jim Carrey keeping him in character, at times, much to the chagrin of studio chiefs. Andy Kaufman also exposes intrigues of some of the biggest names in Hollywood.
Finally, Bob Zmuda shares—in detail—the reasons he believes Andy Kaufman did, in fact, fake his own death, including exactly how he did it and why Andy will return.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

In My TBR Stack:

The Great Grisby: Two Thousand Years of Literary, Royal, Philosophical, and Artistic Dog Lovers and Their Exceptional Animals
Mikita Brottman
Harper Books
Hardcover

From the publisher's website:

A scholar, psychoanalyst, and cultural critic explores the multifaceted role dogs play in our world in this charming bestiary of dogs from literature, lore, and life.

While gradually unveiling her eight-year love affair with her French bulldog, Grisby, Mikita Brottman ruminates on the singular bond between dogs and humans. Why do prevailing attitudes warn us against loving our pet “too much”? Is her relationship with Grisby nourishing or dysfunctional, commonplace or unique? Challenging the assumption that there’s something repressed and neurotic about those deeply connected to a dog, she turns her keen eye on the many ways in which dog is the mirror of man.

The Great Grisby is organized into twenty-six alphabetically arranged chapters, each devoted to a particular human-canine union drawn from history, art, philosophy, or literature. Here is Picasso’s dachshund Lump; Freud’s chow Yofi; Bill Sikes’s mutt Bull’s Eye in Oliver Twist; and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s spaniel Flush, whose biography was penned by Virginia Woolf. There are royal dogs, like Prince Albert’s greyhound Eos, and dogs cherished by authors, like Thomas Hardy’s fox terrier, Wessex. Brottman’s own beloved Grisby serves as an envoy for sniffing out these remarkable companions.


Quirky and delightful, and peppered with incisive personal reflections and black-and-white sketches portraying a different dog and its owner drawn by the enormously talented Davina “Psamophis” Falc√£o, The Great Grisby reveals how much dogs have to teach us about empathy, happiness, love—and what it means to be human.