Just finished Straight Life: The Story of Art Pepper, sobbing at the end, sitting at the kitchen table with a can of beer at 2 am. An amazingly compelling book, and one I found out about by reading The Professor, which was good, though a few of the essays collapsed under the weight of their stylistic conceits, and all of them bogged down at points because of Castle’s obsessive name dropping–imagine a more biting David Sedaris mixed with Dennis Miller at his most obscure. It seems a condition common to many academics, particularly in the humanities: the needs to constantly prove how smart you are, and what form your intelligence takes; it makes sense, I guess, given the jobs folks like Castle hold, in gladiatorial pits stained with the guts of the less erudite… except that they’re not really gladiatorial at all, just like CEOs who fancy themselves hard hearted warriors of the bottom line–they aren’t warriors, and nor are academics. Which is not to discount the idea of intellectual or spiritual or emotional battle-as-performance, of course. Art Pepper was a warrior whenever he played his horn. But the overwhelming majority of academics (and other public intellectuals) and CEOs who fancy themselves gladiatorial are more like fat children whacking each other with whiffle bats. Not that Castle succumbs to this (much), but rather the particular habit of constant, obscure name-dropping seems the sort of defensive habit someone might develop after spending much of their life around such people. Her book is still worth reading, but Straight Life should come first.

CDs: I am tired if writing about each CD (Reminder: my wife challenged me to listen to all my CDs, one at a time. So I am.), so for a while I will just list them at the bottom of a given post:

307) Bloque: De Busqueda; 308) Richard Thompson: Guitar, Vocal; 309) Faith No More: Introduce Yourself; 310) Billie Holiday: The Gold Collection; 311) Eric Clapton: Rush: The Soundtrack (yuck!); 312) Sarah McLachlan: fumbling towards ecstasy: 313) Willie Nelson: Teatro
Please order my new book! It’s cheap! And if enough people pre-order, it might get released sooner than Januaray 2011…