So the last few months have been very conducive to some serious reading and you might be wondering, what's worth the effort? "Backstage Past" by entrepreneur and promoter Barry Fey fills the bill. Fey (1938-2013) lived a much bigger than life, fighting constantly with SOBs like Bill Graham while introducing acts like Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix' last US concert, U2's Under a Blood Red Sky at Red Rocks, etc.This book captures that rock history from 1965 to 2000. Fey was no stranger to controversy and he tells his side vociferously, profanely and usually humorously. He provides lists of musicians, politicians, and business people he hated and loved as well as hundreds of photos of the rock legends that played his concerts, ate his barbeque and steaks and made him a legend.
JP Gritton's debut "Wyoming" is equal parts Daniel Woodrell, Annie Proulx, and Frank Bill and that's very good. It’s 1988 and Shelley Cooper is in trouble. He’s broke, he’s been fired from his construction job, and his ex-wife has left him for their next door neighbor and a new life in Kansas City. The only opportunity on his horizon is fifty pounds of his brother’s high-grade marijuana, which needs to be driven from Colorado to Houston and exchanged for a lockbox full of cash. The delivery goes off without a hitch, but getting home with the money proves to be a different challenge altogether. Fueled by a grab bag of resentments and self punishment, Shelley becomes a case study in the question of whether it’s possible to live without accepting yourself, and the dope money is the key to a lock he might never find.
Timothy Egan's latest "A Pilgrimage to Eternity" is equal parts travelog and philosophical, theological and psychological study as he walks, buses, car rides but never flies on the Via Francigena, a 1,000 mile journey from Canterbury Cathedral, England through France and Switzerland to Vatican City. Pilgrimaging by himself except for short stints with his son, daughter and wife, Egan faces his difficult history with the Roman Catholic church while he faces death in his family. The book is a fascinating trip through history and current headlines as Egan faces mortality, splendor, fellow pilgrims and a possible visit with the Pope.
The final book under consideration is one with some current controversy. "American Dirt" by Jeanine Cummins was read as an Advanced Review Copy several months before publication. I would recommend it unreservedly as a novel of great writing and current impact. Lydia Quixano Perez owns a small bookstore in Acapulco, has an 8 year old son Luca and is happily married to journalist Sebastian. The opening pages of the book are absolutely stunning as her life changes forever and she must escape with her son, walking and riding The Beast, railway boxcar roofs from Acapulco to Denver while their lives could end instantly. This is one book that demands non-stop reading!
So to the controversy-- author Cummins was to be in Denver a week ago for a reading at the Tattered Cover bookstore and I was ready to drive down. She had received an Oprah's book club choice and many other accolades pre-publication, a big forward payment, etc. but the week before her publisher had cancelled the balance of her national tour because of fear for her safety. She was criticized for writing this book-- a research and writing project that took 4 years of her life-- as she wrote , not as a Mexican national, but as a white woman(with a Puerto Rican grandmother) and had received all the adulation. My sense of this is just as Shakespeare wrote about women-Juliet,the daughters of King Lear, Portia and Jessica in the Merchant of Venice,etc., Cummins had every right to research and write her book and if political correctness enters 2020 and her safety and the publication of her book are jeopardized, it's one more bad thing. (I step down from my Soapbox). Enjoy!