Saturday, January 26, 2008

Weekend Links: The GN'R Edition

When I first met Inkwell Michelle, she had a skeleton in her closet. Not a real skeleton, of course. A metaphorical one. But it hung in a non-metaphorical closet. It was a jean jacket. A jean jacket covered in Guns n' Roses patches. This was back in the summer of '92, and even then, such a garment was seen as past its expiration date. So of course I made fun of her for it. A lot. Come to think of it, I still do. The only difference is that when I remember to make fun of her for her acid washed arts and crafts nowadays, it's usually while I'm listening to Guns n' Roses. (Sweet Child O Mine had foresight, what can I say?)
To honor a past that Inkwell Michelle had hoped would stay a sworn secret forever, I'm dedicating this week's Weekend Links to two recent books charting the era of banshee-screamed cries of "Na-na-na-na-na-na-knees! Knees!": Slash's autobiography, Slash, and Reckless Road; Guns n' Roses and the Making of Appetite for Destruction, the gorgeously assembled, self-published photo/scrap book by GN'R friend and Cantor's Deli owner, Marc Canter.

First up is a heavily truncated version of The New York Times' review of Slash. That might sound a bit unethical, but like they say at the outset of the review:

Most rock biographies are about getting to the Good Part. There’s typically a bit of slogging through the star’s unhappy childhood, the revelation of music’s true power and a hard-fought rise to the top before the litany of debauchery and depravity begins — the part that fans actually want to read.
Trash classics of the genre like the Led Zeppelin epic Hammer of the Gods and No One Here Gets Out Alive, the Jim Morrison saga, established a formula that Behind the Music would turn into a cliché. (The recent trend of more “literary” rock memoirs turns this construct on its head; Sting’s Broken Music scarcely mentions the Police, while Bob Dylan’s Chronicles skips the mid-’60s, his most celebrated period.)
The publication of Slash, the autobiography of the top-hatted lead guitarist of Guns N’ Rose...presents a new model for the rock bio: (this) book (is) both pretty much all Good Part.
Slash doesn’t have much to say about the making of the band’s monster 1987 album, Appetite for Destruction (the music just came easily, it seems), but he has plenty to say about its own increasing appetites for sex, booze and drugs.
“When we weren’t being transcendent,” he writes, “we specialized in self-inflicted disaster.” He developed heroin and alcohol dependencies, as did other band members, and he notes that they also took down a lot of not-so-innocent bystanders. “People would get attracted to our...weird life and just get it wrong and drown in our riptide.”
Slash comes across as a nice guy with a proclivity, sometimes toxic, for getting into trouble. He maintains good humor about even his most serious problems, occasionally offering some words to live by. “That’s a wonderful side effect of leather pants”: when you urinate in them, “they’re more forgiving than jeans.”

Next on the list is an LAist interview with Canter about assembling his GN'R themed book, what it was like to hang out with the band as they went from talented nobodies to self-destructive superstars, and -- attention all booksellers and self-publishers still with us at this point -- the unique pleasure found in hand selling.

LAist: So how did this all start?
Marc: I grew up as a big Aerosmith fan. I decided that I would document Slash the way I would document Aerosmith. I always knew he would make it as a guitarist, (so) I would tape record the performances even before GNR, just because I wanted them. If he goes and plays a party, he’ll play and it’ll be gone, so if you record it, you’ve got it. So for a dollar, you put a tape in, you got it. Taking pictures was just a fun thing that I learned how to do. I saw how it started to mold especially after we met Axl, and I saw more of the same coming from different sources. Then I knew if that if they would stay together they would make it. Now I got stuff or myself and for the world, because I wish someone would do for Aerosmith.

LAist: Did you know that you would eventually bring all of this material together?
Marc: I didn’t know that I would make a book, but I was collecting flyers and recording shows/ memorabilia just the way I would for Aerosmith. After they started to get big, (like gold record big) then I realized that at some point I'd put out a scrap book. So I started project in 1994 and it took me 15 months to do. I worked on it from11am to 4 am, and I only went to sleep after I finished a particular section.
So at that point I re-developed all the photos and laid them all out. My goal was to give the publisher a perfect manuscript so they would say “wow, there’s something here.” I wanted the photos the right color and everything; when you shoot on negatives, nothings the right color, its how you develop it.
So I put this thing together and shopped it around but my agent got very greedy, he wanted like a 1$00,000 advance, and this was right around the time the band was falling apart, (around the beginning of 95) and I said put it out for free. So I took it away from him, took it to William Morris, and they got greedy; they wouldn’t listen to me. So I just put it in my shelf, at the time it was 380 pages, and then about 3 years went by and I decided to self publish. I Financed the money by selling my magazine collection – Hit Paraders, Creams, Circuses – I had collected them from swap meets and flea markets, all the good ones from ’71 and ‘72. I was really excited about them, but I wanted someone else to have them. So I eBay’d them and I knew they went to people who wanted them, so that was reassuring.

LAist: (Right) now in LA, there’s a huge nostalgia for that period.
Marc: Right. Everyone that sees the book goes crazy! I took it to Book Soup one time and the owner wasn’t there. I just said I wanted to give you 5 or 6 on consignment, and if you sell them, just buy more. I was there for 1 minute and someone flipped through it and bought it!

LAist: No way!
Marc: So we have a few to sell here at Canters. We sold 10 books on Christmas day. Now for me it’s like a little project. I can stand near the register and see what kinds of people flip through the book and eventually they’ll just spring for it. I get a pleasure to watch somebody come here and unexpectedly walk out with a book. The people that come in have no idea that they’ll leave here with a book. That’s the way I know I completed my goal. All the hours and hours and hours I spent doing this book, that’s the best reward.

For the full interview, click here.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Podcast Links

Over at Authors On Tour, Kurt Andersen, "the co-founder of Spy magazine, and author of the brash and brilliant debut novel Turn of the Century, reads from and discusses the paperback edition of his new novel Heyday."

Simonsays has a reading from Duma Key, Stephen King's "new novel about the tenacity of love, the perils of creativity, and the nature of the supernatural." Alan Cheuse discusses the release date showdown between King and John Grisham over at NPR.

NPR, Simon & Schuster, tophats and Heydays...zzzz. If you want to hear the world of comic books candidly discussed via a crappy computer mic, there's really only one website you need to visit: The Comic Book Queers. Take this podcast, for instance, where the CBQs debate the age old question: Jean vs. Emma.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Comic Book News, In Brief

Technically, this probably belongs in a sub-sub-post titled 'Comic Book-To-Film News, In Brief,' but honestly, I haven't the time. Still, I'm sure you'll forgive me once you've clicked over to EmpireOnline to check out the storyboards from Zack Snyder's upcoming silver screen adaptation of Alan Moore's Watchmen. While the storyboards themselves are very (read: very) bare bones, they do show that Snyder is striving to stick as close to the comic as he did with his film version of Frank Miller's 300.

GLAAD has announced their nominees for 2007's Outstanding Comic Book. They are: American Virgin by Steven T. Seagle (Vertigo/DC Comics), The Boys by Garth Ennis (Dynamite Entertainment), Midnighter by Garth Ennis, Brian K. Vaughan, Christos Gage, Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, and Keith Giffin (Wildstorm/DC Comics), The Outsiders by Judd Winick, Greg Rucka, and Tony Bedard (DC Comics), and Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore (Abstract Studio). Congrats all around.

Publisher's Weekly has a brief interview with Mike Mignola. In it, Mignola spills on Dark Horse's plans to capitalize on the upcoming film, Hellboy: Emerald Hell (a five-issue spin-off series, Abe Sapien: The Drowning, a trade paperback collection of Darkness Calls, a prose novel titled Hellboy: Emerald Hell, and Hellboy: The Companion, a definitive reference guide due out in May. Spin-off series B.P.R.D. gets a new five-issue series, B.P.R.D.: 1946, and collections of B.P.R.D.: The Garden of Souls in late January and B.P.R.D.: The Killing Ground in May), his participation in said film (he co-wrote the original story for the film with del Toro and then contributed some conceptual artwork), and the inevitable ending for Hellboy (you didn't really think I'd tell you here, did you?).

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Book News, In Brief

Stephen King reviews the Kindle for Entertainment Weekly. He likes it, but doesn't believe that it will replace traditional books. (For those of you keeping score -- Brick and mortar booksellers: appeased. similarly appeased. And that, folks, is why King could have been a high ranking politician had he not found contentment as an internationally known, bestselling, millionaire author.)

Nabokov's son has come forward with a manuscript that his father never quite finished, one that Nabokov Sr. specifically asked to be destroyed should he die before its completion. The moral conundrum: Do we respect the artist's last wishes, or treat the world to what might be the makings of a literary masterpiece? Kathryn Hughes mulls it over.

The credibility of Ishmael Beah's memoir A Long Way Gone is about to get smashed into A Million Little Pieces. According to The Guardian UK, "Beah was 15 (years old) and not 13 when he was recruited into the army and that he therefore served only a few months as a child soldier and not two years as he has claimed in the book." Oh, and Oprah has had Beah on her show, so expect the proverbial 'second shoe' to fall shortly.

PR-Inside lists nine bookstores worth taking a vacation to visit. No, our store is not on there. If it was, this would've been given its own post (or at least an accompanying photo).

Monday, January 21, 2008

Book-To-Film News, In Brief

The film adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's Choke is premiering at Sundance as we type/read. Here's a brief interview with the director, along with a couple of quick clips.

Book News, In Brief

Ursula K. Le Guin (author of the Earthsea series, among others) has just added a new feature to her website titled Read by the Author. This is where visitors can hear Le Guin read excerpts from her work, while simultaneously allowing her to maintain a safe distance from her fans, their germy handshakes, and their incessant requests to have a character named after them in her next novel.

When timid Australian publishers canceled the release of Andrew Morton's Tom Cruise biography, opportunistic American ebay sellers stepped in to fill the void. This past week, the book (retail price, $25.95) was fetching up to $60 on the online auction block, with most of those copies going to the land down under. One seller, referring to him/herself only as Wojtek, sold over 150 copies in less than two days. I wonder how many of those are going to the friends and family of Aussie native and former Mrs. Cruise, Nicole Kidman? (Link)

The devil hates Hillary. Anna Wintour, the "famously frosty" Vogue editor and inspiration for the book, The Devil Wears Prada, is quickly becoming an Obama supporter. This is due in large part to Senator Clinton's last minute bail-out on an agreement to be photographed by Annie Leibovitz for the magazine's cover. According to The New Zealand Herald, "the change of heart followed fears in the Clinton camp that the presidential candidate would appear 'too feminine' if she was plastered across the style bible in designer outfits." I heard she was worried that the cover would be unfairly compared to her November 2007 Radar photoshop masterpiece. Let's face it, there's no topping that gem.