Time to load up the beach bag for summer reading. Here’s what I have so far, with some new additions:
Outlaw: Waylon, Willie, Kris, and the Renegades of Nashville by Michael Stressguth (It Books, $26.99). This is a great book idea whose time has come. The hit television series Nashville tells tales of the singer-songwriters trying to make their mark in today’s Music City. Outlaw is a group biography of Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, mostly about their formative years in the early 1960s and their attempts to break away from the city’s mainstream music industry. We can forgive the occasional error (Streissguth puts the venue Panther Hall in Dallas, not Fort Worth), because Outlaw is a wonderful narrative about three wild and original talents.
Give Me Everything You Have by James Lasdun (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25). This is a real-life horror story rooted in that sometimes odd and obsessive relationship between teacher and student. “Relationship” is not quite the right word to describe the fantasies and imaginings of an obsessive student who creates an alternate universe in which she and her mentor have an affair. Lasdun tells us how he rebuffed the student, who then launched an assault on his character. Reads like a thriller, though this story is true.
Springsteen on Springsteen by Jeff Burger (Chicago Review Press, $27.95). Think you have enough Springsteen books? Think again, Bubba. Until the boss writes an autobiography, this is the next-closest thing: a collection of interviews, speeches and the occasional letter to the editor by Bruce. A highlight: his beautiful speech inducting Bob Dylan into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. It’s a superb collection.
That’s Not Funny, That’s Sick by Ellin Stein (W.W. Norton, $27.95). This is a terrific narrative of the comic revolution at the dawn of the 1970s. The book focuses on the epicenter of this comedy, National Lampoon, and its stars, Doug Kenney, Michael O’Donoghue and P.J. O’Rouke. The Lampoon was wickedly funny then and this well-crafted saga ought to help you appreciate the breakthroughs. One complaint: no illustrations. What’s up with that?
Lee Marvin Point Blank by Dwayne Epstein (Schaffner Press, @27.95). It’s time to revisit this movie tough guy, who’s been gone now for a quarter century. Epstein covers Marvin’s early life, his war record, and his steady rise from tough-guy and heavy roles to brutal leading man. Seems that Marvin excelled in every role he attempted, even as a singer in “Paint Your Wagon.”