O.K., I admit it, I have not posted any reviews this Cannonball. It’s just been a weird and for too many, sad time, hasn’t it? But I have managed to do a little reading. These may just be capsule reviews, but that’s just about all I can handle at the moment. There have been some good books and not so good books, but it’s 2020, so that’s par for the course. Looking at this list I realize that I have been drawn to books to help me cope with the current state of the world. My three go-tos seem to be books about politics, old favorites, or humor. Here’s what I’ve been reading to date:
Ken Caillat and Steve Stiefel – Making Rumours: The Inside Story of the Classic Fleetwood Mac Album
I have always loved this album and was intrigued by the reported behind-the-scenes personal drama that went into making its iconic songs. This book started off interestingly enough, but then petered out. Although Caillat (father of pop star Colby, that he likes to frequently remind the reader) was definitely on the spot and seems to know his stuff about sound engineering, there is a whole lot of the technical (how to splice multiple tracks together, circa 1978) and not so much personal (Lindsey Buckingham was a jerk to women). He slips in side-eye remarks about Stevie Nicks without ever getting specific. She reportedly once said a rude thing about his dog – is that the origin of his grudge? But he also has to grudgingly admit that she became the biggest solo star of the bunch. He also occasionally critiques the band for the copious amounts of drugs and alcohol that were consumed during the making of the album, but brushes off the fact that he was right there, indulging as well. Rumours was lightning in a bottle and no one can really properly capture that.
Lawrence Block has a few crime book series, and this is his most lighthearted. The main character, Bernie Rhodenbarr, is a gentleman burglar who lives on the upper east side of Manhattan and is as ready with a quip as he is with a light finger. The books are a little dated – there is always a luscious babe to throw themselves into his arms and his best pal Carolyn is a hard drinking lesbian who manages to leave her Greenwich Village dog washing shop to help Bernie whenever he is mistakenly accused of a murder after pulling a heist, which is often. But it is fun hearing Bernie wax poetic about what he plans to steal. He fancies himself a quasi Robin Hood, robbing from the rich to give to poor little old him. He also runs an old used bookstore in the Village, which is not just a front – he really loves 0ld books. What’s not to love about that?
Jennifer Keishin Armstrong – Seinfeldia: How A Show About Nothing Changed Everything
This is a definite summer read, if one was having a definite summer … but it is fun to get a behind-the-scenes peek at how Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David put together the “show about nothing” and all the other elements that helped make it the classic that it has become, including casting (especially Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and the many writers who have contributed bits along the way.
Nora Ephron – Heartburn
This book is a thinly-veiled take on the break-up of Ephron’s marriage to Carl Bernstein. It is a funny collection of scenes from a marriage, mixed in with recipes. Originally written in 1983, it might seem a little hard to believe how her heroine has let herself be so easily deceived by her husband, but it is clear that she was pretty distracted by moving from NY to DC and then being pregnant multiple times. How easy it is to look the other way …
(p.s. the movie based on the book is not as fun – this article about making the movie is actually better than the movie)
Rebecca Harrington – I’ll Have What She’s Having: My Adventures in Celebrity Dieting
This sounds like a fun by the pool read, and I guess it could be for some, but not me. It reads more like the author researched a bunch of celebs on the internet (Gwyneth Paltrow, Jackie O, Beyonce) and whips out some very lightweight essays on each, all framed by the absurd side/challenge that she will eat that way, too, although most of her “diets” don’t last a week. This book is practically a meme.
Mary Trump – Too Much and Never Enough
With all of the endless reporting on the current occupant of the White House I realize that this book may seem too much for a lot of people, but I am really glad that I read it. There are insights into 45’s personality, but I think most of us knew who he was and is already. What is really interesting is her description of her grandparents, especially Fred Trump Sr., and how he made his fortune from sub-par housing in Brooklyn – he was always willing to “work with” local politicians for the best deals. Her descriptions of her father, who just couldn’t hack the expectations of Sr. and his addictive personality is also instructive.
Anand Giridharadas – Winners Take All
I first became aware of Anand Giridharadas on MSNBC from his appearances on shows with Lawrence O’Donnell and Rachel Maddow. He is whip smart and unrelenting in his insistence that we see beneath and beyond the “philanthropy” of the ruling class to maintain their status quo. This book is his manifesto and a fascinating read.
Glenn Simpson & Peter Fritsch – Crime in Progress
I read this around the time of the impeachment hearings to gain a better understanding of Fusion GPS (the authors own the firm), the Steele dossier and the investigations into the Trump campaign and its ties to Russia. The book is presented in a very reporterly, clear and concise style. Although the topic is politics, it steers clear of partisanship – notedly Fusion was asked by Republicans and Democrats to look into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia. The only frustrating thing about this book is that so many still don’t seem to see beyond the repetitive sound bytes. This book goes far in trying to clear up the confusion.