Book Review: And I Don't Want To Live This Life by Deborah Spungen

 Sid and Nancy...the names are synonymous as heroin and track marks. Few of punk rock's most sensational stories are as compelling as this one. Hard-edged proof that truth is stranger than fiction.

Being a punk rock fan nearly since its inception, I had of course heard the basics of the Sid and Nancy story, and fell in love with Alex Cox's 1986 film of the same name. I had no other curiosity about the tumultuous existence of Nancy Spungen, mostly because she has most always been depicted in a most unflattering light.

So when this book came across my path, my first thought was that it would be great for the shops. But as I glanced thru the blurbs on front and back cover, I found myself opening to the first page and scanning the first few lines...

Well I was immediately sucked in. In fact, I didn't put it down for 50 pages (which is a lot for me as I'm a bit of a slow reader). It was completely fascinating from the very beginning, and I proceeded to inhale it every free minute I had for the next 48 hours, until it was finished. (Also no small feat for me at 430 pages in such a short time, I'm a busy lady).

I can easily and honestly say this is one of the best books I have EVER read, and I'm old and have read a LOT of books in my life. Not only is the story absolutely, insanely insane, but it greatly appeals to the writer in me in a non-fiction capacity. See, Nancy's Mom was not planning to be a writer, she had many other ideas for her career as an educated, middle class person. But this story begs to be told, not only because of the notoriety surrounding Nancy's short, wild life, but for the family and friends that survived the affects of the devastating tornado that was Nancy Spungen--truly from the moment of her birth.

I'll give no other details here, because you MUST read it for yourself. Suffice it to say that you will in no way be bored, even if you only have a casual interest in Sid & Nancy, or if you're a hardcore fan. And if you're so inclined, you can even purchase the copy posted here. Sadly I only have one available at the moment, as I'm not giving up my copy for anyone or anything. But I am always on the hunt for more.

 Shown here is the harder to find first paperback edition which has (I think ) the best cover art. Grab it quick!


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Book Review: The Trouser Press Record Guide by Ira A. Robbins

 Originally published in 1983, The Trouser Press Record Guide: The Ultimate Guide To Alternative Music (4th edition 1991) packs a punch for those of us who prefer the sprawling wilderness of the post-punk era to today's paltry offerings labeled as 'new music'. With a focus on the often unknown bands, to the well-known within the Punk, Post-Punk, New Wave and otherwise alternative bands from all over the radar. Robbins and his crew offer highly opinionated, but detailed information, providing much more insight than the usual fare given in a typical issue of Rolling Stone.

The added beauty of the book is the additional info of vinyl releases for each band, as, if you remember, the majority of popular (and not so popular) music ceased to be pressed on vinyl when the almighty CD began its reign near the end of the 80's. Leaving vinyl production (mainly) to the rare artist who insisted on a vinyl pressing or special vinyl-only release.

I am not in the habit of posting pre-written material for my blog, however, the following review by Timothy P. Young sums it up pretty well:

"What makes this book great isn't the reviewing they do (concise and well written, always) but rather the fact that Trouser Press provides histories for each band before jumping into their material, and traces the progression of bands through their careers... If you want to understand the individual formations of bands, their original vision, how and why they changed and a full critical accounting thereof, buy the Trouser Press Guides."

If you would indeed like to purchase this buried treasure of the alternative dark ages, Amazon currently has it available for a price suitable for all budgets here: The Trouser Press Record Guide 4th Edition . Ira Robbins has since published a 5th edition called The Trouser Press Guide to 90's Rock: The All-New Fifth Edition 1997 of course including the 'influential' bands of the 90's Grunge movement. And you can bet your most valuable record I will be purchasing The Trouser Press Guide to New Wave Records for myself this Christmas.

Trouser Press began as a fan-zine in 1974-1984 publishing 95 issues featuring rare interviews, reviews, obscure photos and much more in its 10 year life span. Highly recommended.

Reading The Classics of Gothic Fiction: Dracula by Bram Stoker

You would think tackling a classic like Dracula would be a difficult job, and it's true that it's taken me a while to get to a place where I could decide what I wanted to say about it. I mean this is a worldwide, beloved classic of gothic fiction; the parental story that has birthed an unfathomable amount of other books, films, art in its many forms, and the list goes on....Then why am I so disenchanted with it? Why have two solid, serious attempts to read and absorb this most famous of stories, both lead to only getting 2/3 the way through the book? I simply cannot bring myself to finish it. Am I missing the most crucial parts? Perhaps, but I don't think so. At least if any of the films are any indication. I know that literature of the period in which Dracula was written are notoriously slow-burns. In other words they take a long time to get to the good stuff, or the really scary stuff, or the big payoff at the end. In fact I read a lot of Edwardian/Victorian gothic fiction, so I'm well used to the language and styles of writing in those periods. Well, I gotta say, after seeing the many film versions of Dracula, I know how it ends well enough to get the gist.

Am I jaded by my love of the films of Dracula? Most notably Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 effort which is labeled as Bram Stoker's version, and happens to be my favorite? Maybe so. But where is this great love story between Dracula and Mina in the book? Each diary entry (for the most part) is so long and laden with overly descriptive passages that my mind constantly wanders, or I start skipping through the blah-blah-blah parts.

With all of that being said, it did start off well, and I was really enjoying it up to about the halfway mark. I love the language of the 18th & 19th Centuries, with their flowery descriptions and proper dialogue. Easily painting pictures in the mind of that most intriguing time in history. So WTF? Why can't I bring myself to finish it? Maybe I'll revisit it someday, and the third attempt will be the one that takes, but until then, I guess it just looks pretty good on my shelf.