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Guitar: An American Life Paperback – July 27, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Tim Brookes, a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Sunday Weekend Edition, has also had his work appear in National Geographic, Outside, American History, and Vintage Guitar. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
Top Customer Reviews
My point is that I picked up the book as someone long experienced in guitars, already having read widely on guitars, yet found this Brookes book to add to my knowledge and become my favorite. If you're interested in the guitar, there's just no way you can go wrong buying this book. This is an author who really understands the soul of his subject.
Tim Brookes weaves a story with two threads: a step-by-step account of having his own guitar custom-built by Vermont guitar-maker Rick Davis, and the step-by-step story of how the guitar became THE instrument of American music.
If you've ever played guitar, or enjoyed listening to it in any of its many musical roles - folk, classical, blues, rock or heavy-metal weapon - you will love this book.
The writing is excellent, evocative of many memories - and very, very funny. Example from the Glossary:
"Guitar, bass: Low-end instrument, in every sense, to which a guitarist is banished when the band hires someone better than him to take over lead."
From Singing Cowboys, Hawaiian slide wizards and exploited black bluesmen to the British Invasion of the 1960s, Heavy-Metal Heroes and pimply punks; Brookes evokes them all.
But this isn't yet another book about guitar heroes - this time the hero is the guitar itself.
I'm already thinking about starting it over again...
Every other chapter concerns the author's experience in ordering his first custom guitar. Those of you who play and cherish new instruments should enjoy and relate to Tim's journey.
The remaining chapters present Tim's unique view of the guitar's American cultural history, in ALL its permutations. Mr. Brookes fearlessly approaches this topic from a fresh, "outsider's" perspective. With it, he hits upon a new simple, obvious (and necessary) explanation of a guitar: "Not a single instrument but a syndrome, a collection of symptoms from a list" (then giving some examples from this list).
What all this boils down to is, in effect, two short "novels" - independent stories presented with so much new insight and humor that I was saddened when each ended.
This is really two books woven together. The first is a history of the guitar... how it developed in American music, and how it became the icon it is today. The second story is about how the author lost a beloved guitar to baggage handlers, and had a new instrument handmade for him - and documented that process along the way. Each story is compelling in its own right, but together, they're more effective than either one would0 be separately. The historical part is imbued with a sense of the author's personal love for guitars, and the personal story is given a sense of academic discipline and rigor.
If you love guitars, and are interested in how they are made and how they became so widespread and important, read this book!