Johnny Cash’s American Recordings by Tony Tost (33 1/3)

American Recordings (album)

American Recordings (album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I first started reading this biography of the album American Recordings, I thought to myself “This is the most overblown, self-possessed, conceited, smug, overwrought, pretentious piece of literary crap I have ever read.” Now that I have finished it, I KNOW it is the most overblown, self-possessed, conceited, smug, overwrought, pretentious piece of literary crap I have ever read.

To wit: In reference to the song “Let the Train Blow the Whistle”, Tost wrote

“Perhaps the song even reveals where Cash believed the reckoning between God and America finally takes place; within the emotional, psychological and spiritual interiors of the republic’s citizens, the truly apocalyptic battleground.” (Loc. 812)

About the track “Thirteen” he wrote: “On the page, ‘Thirteen’ is a competent lyrical exercise in dramatic self-pity and generalized menace, nearly a caricature of Cash’s persona; it embraces the Man in Black’s outlaw mythology without including either the spiritual ache or the knowing wit that were also in his possession.”(Loc. 1072)

And I’m still trying to figure out just what the hell Tost was doing with Chapter 21–Permanence (3)…

This series, 33 1/3, has a reputation for unevenness, and I would have to say I hope so. As this is the first I have read, I do hope they can’t all be this bad. I don’t think Johnny would recognize his work or himself in this book. My first ever Zero Star review.

The Deadfall Hotel by Steve Resnick Tem


Reading (Photo credit: Beppie K)

OK, rarely will you ever hear me say this, but this book should have been longer. Not because I didn’t want it to end, but because so much is left out. While I am generally a fan of books that leave a little to the imagination and treat the reader as though they are a capable, thinking individual, there is so much missing here as to strain credulity.I know, I know, this is a fantasy novel. But it is populated by actual human beings, even if they are English. And those Englishmen should either react as humans do, or we should be given some explanation. Screw stiff upper lip and all that–NO ONE in this realm would just accept the goings-on at The Deadfall Hotel without so much as an eyebat, as we are led to believe that Richard Carter does.

This is my first foray into the work of Steve Resnic Tem, so I’ll withhold judgement on the entire oeuvre unless or until I read more, but this one left a lot to be desired.

The Longest War: Stories from the Battlefields of Iraq & Afghanistan by John F. Holmes, ed.

Marines honor, remember fallen brother in sout...

Marines honor, remember fallen brother in southern Helmand [Image 10 of 16] (Photo credit: DVIDSHUB)

It’s really hard to rate someone writing from personal experience. Particularly if it is an experience that you KNOW you will never have to endure. These are  personal reminiscences of the War in Afghanistan and the Iraq War. The editor provides these vignettes ‘warts and all’ without correcting any spelling or grammar that did not affect the meaning of the story, though they did obscure some names of participants, particularly KIA, to spare families additional agony. Likewise, some place names were obscured to protect security data. Nevertheless, the stories are compelling; sometimes poignant, funny, enraging. Well worth the read.


“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief.”

Franz Kafka

Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears by Pema Chodron

Ani Pema Chödrön

Ani Pema Chödrön (Photo credit: albill)

As usual, this work is perceptive and easily digested. Also, as is common with her other works, Pema Chodron approaches the topic with the knowledge that her readers are, like herself, fully human. If you find yourself in the same emotional rut day after week after year, or perhaps you continue to take the same actions expecting different results, there is something in here for you.