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Guitar: An American Life Paperback – July 27, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
When Brookes finds that his beloved guitar has been hopelessly damaged by airport baggage handlers, he sets off on a journey to find the perfect handmade instrument to replace it. Inspired by the vast array of choices, as well as by luthier Rick Davis ("a luthier is a guitar maker who charges $1,000 per guitar"), Brookes becomes enthralled with the relationship between the instrument and the people involved with it, and how that link has developed and changed over time. The author, a regular commentator on NPR's Sunday Weekend Edition, contrasts the story of a guitar being built from a few simple (yet carefully chosen) pieces of cherry wood with alternating chapters on the history of the instrument. In doing so, he reminds us that all instruments—even the iconic American guitar—are ever-changing. Instead of compiling a book filled with dates and anecdotes, Brookes wisely chooses to focus on personalities, like Rick, the economics student turned Vermont guitar builder; Joseph Kekuku, the Hawaiian inventor of the slide guitar; and Jimi Hendrix, who, by lighting his guitar on fire, provided evidence of "the electricity of the music" and "combined it with a kind of ritual sacrifice." Finally, Brookes receives his finished guitar, and readers share in his joy as well as in the feeling of continuing a long tradition of music history. Agent, Henry Dunow. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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
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I enjoyed the book.
Although the history of the guitar is exhaustive, and there was one especially gruesome depiction of racist torture in the South that could have been omitted, I liked the clear and commonsense description of the guitar's assembly. The author has a gift for describing luthery concepts simply and clearly.
Chapters alternate between history and the progress of the author's custom guitar build.
Probably my favorite part was discovering the tone bar reinforcement braces act as "transducers" distributing the sound from the bridge through the bracing and the soundboard top, in addition to adding strength.
Plus the long developmental history helps one appreciate the present day guitar that much more.
his Fylde is broken by baggage handlers. His is a
personal account of ordering, watching and waiting for
the finished product as it is being built - and
interspersing the account with guitar history.
Enjoyable except when he gets carried away with lists
of famous performers. Brooks tends to name every artist
who ever held the instrument. Pictures are included
except for a clear and detailed photo of his own
Overall the book is a good read for the history of the
instrument and for understanding the intricate
relationship of wood types to melodic sound. He clearly
has a passion for the guitar and its intimate
connection to the player.
Taking a clue from the non-academic backgrounds of these musicians, Mr. Brookes keeps the tone light and informal. He doesn't give you a manual for building your guitar, but he gives you enough to appreciate the skills involved in doing so. The tales and history of blues, bluegrass, country, rock, and punk seem to have been written while the glue was drying on his new guitar. They were interesting, fun to read, and gave an appreciation for styles of music that I don't normally listen to.