Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Spot and Guitar An American Life

Book Four: The Spot by David Means

Quirky seems too bright a word to describe the short stories of David Means. Offbeat? Unconventional? Bizarre?

All of that. The subject matter isn't the sort of fare dished up by Alice Munro or William Trevor.  Instead, we enter worlds few of us would enter voluntarily. A world of bank robbers and bums, failed actors, pimps and a couple caught in an affair that is going nowhere.

It isn't just the subject matter that's unconventional, but the voices that emerge from each of these stories. In Means' hands, the voices of these people from the fringe of society feels so authentic that the reader experiences a voyeuristic thrill that is deliciously creepy.

Book Five: Guitar An American Life by Tim Brookes

There are two stories in Guitar An American Life.  The first is a biography of the guitar, especially how it attained its place in American music.

Lots of performers you know -- Mother Maybelle, Chet Atkins, Django Reinhardt -- and many more you may not populate these pages.  Brookes tells us how various forms of music -- from wave after wave of Hawaiian performers that inundated the Mainland to rock and roll -- shaped our acceptance and understanding of this instrument that was once seen as a tool of the devil.

The second story is about the efforts of guitar maker from the Green Mountains of Vermont to build a new guitar for Brookes.  It's a surprisingly intimate account and a fascinating look at a creative process that strikes a balance between functionality and art.

Guitar An American Life came to me as a Christmas gift from my oldest son.  It was a title well chosen., Birthday Best Sellers

This is an intriguing website. Type in your birthday and see the New York Times bestsellers that week. Desiree by Annemarie Selinko was the topselling book the week I was born. Followed by A.J. Cronin's Beyond This Place, Too Late the Phalarope by Alan Paton and Time and Time Again by James Hilton.

The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale was the top-selling work of non-fiction.

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