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M. Bromberg "BellemeadeBooks" RSS Feed (Atlanta, GA United States)
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This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession
This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession
by Daniel J. Levitin
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.04
364 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Familiar concepts about music, and some dodgy theories, December 30, 2011
Does it help to know why you can't get the music of Pink Floyd or Mozart, Adele or Miles Davis out of your head? Levitin's theorizing makes the reader at least consider the effect of music on the human mind and its functions. While some of his conclusions may be up for discussion (the "sound of a tree falling in the forest" debate gets a surprising "no" answer -- so much for the laws of physics) many of his book's concepts are very familiar to the general reader: music, beginning with rhythm, has been a human component for a long time, and is intricately connected with many human activities. This book won't change the reader's listening habits, or even musical preferences -- but it should sharpen an awareness of the role music plays in our everyday lives.


The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (Outspoken Authors)
The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (Outspoken Authors)
by Cory Doctorow
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.49
67 used & new from $0.01

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Includes a thoughtful essay on the arts, the marketplace, and individual rights, October 24, 2011
In the included essay "Creativity vs. Copyright," Cory Doctorow takes up the argument that there is a fundamental disparity between proposed changes in copyright law and the creative freedom of the artist with 21st century tools. The projected loss of corporate revenue is one factor in the current debate, but the rights of the individual are an even more important one. The artist's right to expression, if it's even considered, will pose a thornier path.

As Doctorow points out, the decision is one in which -- perhaps for the first time -- the artist can have an active role. The struggle these days seems to be how intellectual property can still be maintained in a multimedia universe that makes accesibility free, to millions, at the click of a mouse. The jury's still out about intellectual property rights, even as all sides -- individuals and corporations -- continue to deliberate furiously with a Supreme Court battle looming somewhere ahead in the uncertain future.


Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1: The Complete and Authoritative Edition
Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1: The Complete and Authoritative Edition
by Mark Twain
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $33.01
514 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A stroll with Mark Twain through his life and times, July 30, 2011
Much has already been commented about the structure of this edition, but it's just as easy to skip the introductory material meant for scholars. Twain's own structure for the book was a daily ramble of dictation as he recalled people, personal events and national scandals.

The author enjoyed talking. Reading the result is like listening to a favorite, distracted uncle as he rehearses old stories and nurses new grudges. There's about 225 pages of actual autobiography here -- a first-third of a life that spanned 75 years of American history -- and it really doesn't make much difference where a reader begins or leaves off: as Twain muses, "that is what human life consists of -- little incidents and big incidents ... an autobiography that leaves out the little things and enumerates only the big ones is no proper picture of the man's real life at all."

Readers who understand this approach from the start will be rewarded with a wonderfully entertaining stroll with Twain as he wanders through his life and times from school days in Hannibal to the darker days of family tragedy. The man's opinions are still funny, scandalous, and sharp. Yes, the book's type could be larger, and readers should save the pages of notes and names and reference material until their interest leads them there. As a research volume the book is as thorough as one could want. As a memoir filled with his own shaggy-dog stories, the "Autobiography" is a long-promised visit from Twain himself.


When That Rough God Goes Riding: Listening to Van Morrison
When That Rough God Goes Riding: Listening to Van Morrison
by Greil Marcus
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.28
73 used & new from $0.49

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A personal trip through the Morrison mysteries, July 29, 2011
Is this the book to start with an understanding of Van Morrison? No way. But it hits at something central in Morrison's music, the reaching for something else that may not even be there -- the phantom in the music that conjures more than the words and music and endless humming ever can. The best of Morrison's music, like Irish tales, wait on some force or form to appear and create some other meaning, to conjure some other reality.

Greil Marcus is no stranger to the arcane and the inexplicable in pop and rock culture. "When That Rough God Goes Riding" is his foray into the Morrison mysteries and, if you're up for it, a cross-cultural romp of influences, judgments, and fractured emotional responses to Van's work. Is it too much? Yes, and not enough, too. Its thick, wild and wooly theorizing is more a product of Marcus's love of Van's music than any rational trip through Morrison's catalogue. Fans will understand.

Abandoning a linear narrative opens the book to complaints of Marcus's personal obsession, messy and strained connections, and sheer confusion. But the writer's approach-of-tangents gets to the core of why Morrison's music has an appeal more to individuals than a mass audience: at the music's best, it's a vision. (One can imagine the mystical, yearning Yeats attempting to fill stadium seats, decades of touring behind his work.) Whether Morrison himself intends it so, in this age of Beiber and Gaga it's a wonder his music still makes it to the marketplace at all.


A Good Hard Look: A Novel
A Good Hard Look: A Novel
by Ann Napolitano
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $23.62
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flannery O'Connor, neighbor, July 10, 2011
Flannery O'Connor, the mystic of Milledgeville, Georgia, has been tending her flocks of peacocks elsewhere since 1964, when she died after years of ill health. Her fictions remain uniquely her own -- novels and stories that have inspired a generation of gothic tales and Southern mythologies -- although she herself saw nothing special in her rural life. "Lives spent between the house and the chicken yard do not make exciting copy," she said of herself.

She disliked it when reviewers called her fiction mean or cynical, though her stories often involved transformations through events that are painful and violent. "When I see these stories described as horror stories I am always amused because the reviewer always has hold of the wrong horror," she commented after the publication of her collection "A Good Man is Hard to Find" in 1955. Her fractious, deceptively simple characters come to change by their own beliefs, a hallmark of the author's strong feelings towards her own Catholic faith; her stories are allegories about man's divinity, not lessons about about church doctrine.

Ann Napolitano's "A Good Hard Look" places the author in the center of a story populated with a cast of characters that struggle with their own very human problems, from uncertain marriages to the meddlings of the neighborhood busybody. Unlike O'Connor's outsized and almost freakish fictional misfits, the Milledgeville folks make do with what they've got: mainly, themselves and the rituals of life in a small Georgia town.

O'Connor has her own doubts and insecurities and family issues: the presence of her hard-headed mother Regina gives the author a sense of balance as her health worsens and she begins to wonder if it was a terrible mistake "centering her life on a string of words typed on a page."

Escape from her own fate becomes a theme in the book. Finding a soul-mate in Melvin, who is teaching her to drive, O'Connor thinks of "flashing down the road with a man sitting next to her, that she was someone else, living a normal, contented life." The choices of a normal life are in marked contrast to O'Connor's fictional creations -- the "large and startling figures" that came to life in her stories.

The author was 39 when she died. Napolitano resists the temptation to make O'Connor's life and early death into one of the writer's own fictions -- the folks in Milledgeville are neighbors, after all, not gothic figures. "A Good Hard Look" is a fan's story and a good, inventive tale, one that O'Connor herself might take prickly pride in reading.


Gravely Concerned: Southern Writers' Graves
Gravely Concerned: Southern Writers' Graves
by JOHN SOWARD BAYNE
Edition: Paperback
16 used & new from $1.67

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A treasury of Southern names and out-of-the-way places, March 9, 2011
"Gravely Concerned" is a regional celebrity-search of the famous and infamous writers who had much to do with creating the unique Southern imagination. The book is less haunted by morbid curiosity than it is an evocative visual record of where many writers associated with the South have chosen to spend eternity. It's no surprise that his book, in its elegiac tone, suggests a certain urgent prompting to the procrastination of aspiring Southern writers and other present-day scribblers.

Over the course of its pages the book becomes a treasury of Southern names, regional writers whose legacies are less well known but whose fictions are part of the Southern fabric. John Trotwood Moore. Abbie Mandana Holmes Christiansen. Beatrice Whitte Ravenel. William Tappan Thompson. Thomas Holley Chivers. Douglas Southall Freeman. John Peale Bishop. Hubert Creekmore. Katherine Drayton Mayrant Simons.

Monuments with their names and dates chiseled in stone offer some writers the opportunity for a final parting shot, or piece of wisdom on view for eternity. In his preface Bayne offers these: "Among the best are T.S. Stribling's 'Through this dust these hills once spoke' and Ben Robertson's 'I rest in thy bosom, Carolina, thy skies over me, thine air above and around me. Among my own and in my own country I sleep.'"

Not all are quite so serious; some epitaphs are examples of the special Southern wit. On April 20, 2008, a monument was unveiled on the overlooked and presumed grave of George Washington Harris, with a new epigraph from the humorist's own fictional creation, "Parson Bullen's Oration Over the Corpse of Sut Lovingood": "Let us try and ricollect his virtues -- ef he had any -- and forget his vices -- ef we can. For of such air the kingdom of heaven!"

Recommended as both a photography book and an historical record.


Uptight: The Story of the "Velvet Undergound" (Classic rock reads)
Uptight: The Story of the "Velvet Undergound" (Classic rock reads)
by Victor Bockris
Edition: Paperback
29 used & new from $10.84

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars She couldn't believe what she heard at all ...., December 14, 2010
A concise biography that details the trajectory of the Velvet Underground month-by-month, year-by-year, as the group evolves from Lou Reed's pop-rock roots to Andy Warhol patronage and art-rock noise, through a subdued, confessional third album and finally, "despite all the amputations," to rock'n'roll. Victor Bockris has written a witty, detailed story with first-person accounts, full of the band's personal turmoil, drug use, and ego-fueled confrontations. The interviews illuminate the art of the music and the band's struggle for commercial success in equal measure, two opposing goals that lead to the inevitable end of the band with centrifugal force. Great black-and-white photographs capture a band as interested in its own look as in its music. This is much more than a fan's book, and the Velvets' highwire act performed without a net ought to dispel any notion of the monolithic "peace and love" image of Sixties' music.


Life
Life
by Keith Richards
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $29.99
493 used & new from $0.01

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The main offender takes the stand in his own defense, October 29, 2010
This review is from: Life (Hardcover)
Life has been a great ride for Keith, and the book is a great read for fans; as it turns out, for the Rolling Stones time really is on their side after all. The book is filled with stories that somehow amaze with how different the world seemed back then. Now when the only parental outrage Katy Perry can generate is her outfit on Sesame Street, tales of the Stones in America seem positively other-worldly. The Stones' music, and Keith's wicked guitar riffing, is still there to incite or amuse us all in turn.

Well, they are all gentlemen now, and grandfathers these days, but Keith is attempting to go old gracefully without the albatross of a young man's "hope I die before I get old" lyric in the book. (As far back as 1978 Keith contemplated the wisdom in the words "I'm going to walk before they make me run.") The guitar-slinger seems content to retire or refute most of he bad-boy stories, told with great relish one more time at least for this (book) tour.

Will Mick and Keith play on stage again? Sure, as long as there is a five-pound note in The Bank of England's vaults. Keith-the-estate-gardener rock star who played the Pirate King to Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow must maintain some wickedness, certainly, if even for press junkets: it seems he did actually snort some of the old man's cremated ashes that had fallen out on the coffee-table. Then again, Keith has given up drinking now, at the age of 66, and a man must surely be allowed at least one vice. Cheers ...!


Drainspotting: Japanese Manhole Covers
Drainspotting: Japanese Manhole Covers
by Remo Camerota
Edition: Hardcover
39 used & new from $5.98

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The art underfoot, October 29, 2010
During the 1980s Japan experienced country-wide resistance to replacing ancient sewer systems until one politician came up with an idea that approached the old problem in a new way. He appealed to civic pride by suggesting, and then implementing, the idea of custom manhole covers for each community.

The idea was a great success -- sewer systems were repaired and many towns received the benefit of an unexpected civic boosterism, as well as a new kind of art appreciation: thousands of one-of-a-kind manhole covers that tell local history and commemorate local heroes.

"Drainspotting" is a brick-sized photo collection of these unique artworks in appropriately less-than-coffeetable format (six-by-six inches). Besides being an unexpected and attractive art, the result has been a beneficial civic program, a great example of how the demands of politics, the needs of communities, and the aesthetics of art can combine -- and a reminder how rarely they do, too.

Since their original introduction the manhole covers have taken on new themes. Designs range from images that evoke a region's cultural identity, from flora and fauna to landmarks and local festivals. There are even fairytales and fanciful images dreamed up by school children. With its photographs organized by individual region, Drainspotting documents another distinct aspect of contemporary Japanese visual culture.


How to Wreck a Nice Beach: The Vocoder from World War II to Hip-Hop, The Machine Speaks
How to Wreck a Nice Beach: The Vocoder from World War II to Hip-Hop, The Machine Speaks
by Dave Tompkins
Edition: Hardcover
38 used & new from $12.97

10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ... you sing calm incense, and speak distinctly, May 11, 2010
This is a tech geek's wild ride through ten years of research and interviews, taking tangent at every opportunity to weave together the improbable uses and history of this one technological wonder. Like most of the inescapable gadgets that come to permeate popular culture the vocoder is unrecognizable from its original form.

Behind the fireworks on the page there is an obsessive's amount of information. Music fans of a certain tech bent will be interested in the scope of Tompkins' interviews from Afrika Bambaataa, to Laurie Anderson, to Holger Czukay of the group Can. These are not household names to casual pop listeners, and the book will have a built-in cult appeal, but it is surprising to discover a few major interview omissions. (Stevie Wonder is one.)

The book is fun, written in a dense style that could be called pop-baroque. Tompkins likes to scatter his literary references wide and drop time-space continuum non-sequiturs on the unsuspecting reader, in that disquieting way of the truly inspired -- or obsessed, depending on one's point of view. Over the long haul the book takes on exhausting dimensions. Ten years of research into one corner of pop culture is a long time; the writing may be fun, but the writer often loses focus in that "what was I saying?" style as he layers on the stories.

But the dedicated reader/gadget fan will hang in there. Like a spy novel there are unexpected connections throughout the book. If there are no real conspiracies, no unexpected dark secrets to discover about the vocoder or its uses, the facts themselves pile up to make an intriguing story. At the very least, having read "How To Wreck a Nice Beach" will bring a sly smile the next time I choose between Kathy or Alex, Bad News, Hysterical or Deranged as a text-reading voice option.


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