Book Review: David Bowie – Starman

David Bowie: Starman, by Paul Trynka. (website)

I haven’t read any biographies of David Bowie in recent years, maybe because a lot of what I picked up in the early 90s could easily be classified as utter rubbish. Over-dramatic tellings of Bowie’s half-brother Terry’s mental illness, or the most dreadful example: Angela Bowie’s supposed memoir, which purported to tell the reader all about how she found Bowie and Jagger in bed together… if only you’d read till the end of the book. (By the way, don’t bother, it was quite the anti-climax.)

Even from the first chapters of Starman, I could tell the book would be of high quality, but I should note that while I am still a huge fan of Bowie, I’m less interested in what his background is and more interested in what material he’s putting out, whether it be music, art, or film. All I hoped when starting this book was to not be bored.

Paul Trynka has some good credits to his name: author of an Iggy Pop bio in 2008 and formerly the editor of MOJO magazine, to name but a few. At least a guy from the music biz would have a different outlook than other, non-music writers.

Now, about the book.

There’s more than enough detail to satisfy everyone, from the casual fan to the most dedicated, even me. (Though if you’re reading to find out what Bowie has for breakfast, keep looking.) Even as someone who has read a lot on Bowie, I enjoyed this book and found it informative. It’s exactly the sort of book that I would recommend to a new fan who wants to know (almost) everything.

There are quite a few biographies of David Bowie floating around, even recently, when the man himself hasn’t been as much of a force on the music scene. (Dear David, I would love if you’d put out some new material. Anything, even just an EP.) While I don’t know how complete some of the other recent material is, I’m especially impressed with Trynka’s extensive notes and acknowledgments. Notes for each chapter are informal (no footnotes here) but cover all the sources used, especially highlighting the main interviewees for each section. Far more readable than standard academic notes (and I’ve read a lot of those in my time.) I only wish that the book was available in eBook format so that I could stick it onto my Kindle and carry it around for easy reference.

Before I finish off, I must tell you that Trynka ends with the Fashion Rocks event, and in reading about it, I remembered that I hadn’t watched that performance in some time. So, I just had to find it on YouTube to share:

Movies: The end of an era.

When I first picked up a copy of ‘Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone’, I was 18. Certainly a little older than its targeted demographic. I’d heard about the fuss, and snagged a copy in paperback. On a trip to Norway, I bought a copy of ‘Chamber of Secrets’ in the bookshop at Heathrow airport. I read it too fast and it didn’t even last the 2.5hr flight to Oslo. I was hooked.

I can’t remember if I saw the first film in the theatre or not. I probably did. I remember seeing the second film in the theatre, probably because it featured a bewigged Jason Isaacs rather heavily. I saw that film several times before it left the theatres.

In each new book and each new film, I eagerly awaited the continuation of Harry’s tale. I didn’t do the midnight book-buying except for once (which was with Half-Blood Prince, I think), and I never did the midnight showings, but I found myself quite the fan nevertheless.

With the finale Friday night, it does feel like the end of an era. Having just turned 31, I’ve spent 13 years reading JK Rowling’s tales and seeing every film. There aren’t too many things I’ve been a fan of for that length of time. What will be next? I’m curious to see what JK’s next project is, and I’ll likely buy the ebooks when they’re officially released, but I’m really going to miss all the excitement. And Lucius. In fact, I think I’ll go put in ‘Chamber of Secrets’ right now…

Blog post round-up: July 15

It’s Stampede time here in Calgary, so what better way to celebrate than to do a blog post round-up? (and it’s also my birthday, so I want to do a quick post before I go out to see the new Harry Potter…)

These are just a few of the blogs and articles I have been checking out this past week. Happy Weekend!

Video: Audrey Tautou & Chanel No 5

I’d completely forgotten about Audrey’s appearance in the lengthy Chanel No 5 advert, directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (who also directed her in ‘Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain/Amélie’ and ‘Un long dimanche de fiançailles/A Very Long Engagement’). I came across it while searching for information on the perfume for a novella I’m writing. It’s a fanciful advert, very much in Jeunet’s style. Whether or not the scent of Chanel has the effect it’s shown to have here… well, I suppose that’s a matter of personal taste.

Books: A few ebook recommendations for today

As most of you know, I read like a fiend. Since I got my Kindle, I devour even more stories. Here are a few of my favourite Kindle reads:

All are excellent. Two of the authors, Vivi Anna and Anya Winter, are also members of my local RWA chapter. And I met the awesome Lynne Silver in NYC – as much a delight in person as her stories are to be read. There’s a bit of everything here: Anya’s story is a contemporary erotic novella, Vivi’s is a contemporary paranormal, and Lynne’s is a historical erotic romance.

RWA 2011, Part 2: NYC

First the conference, now, New York City.

Though I could have spent my time entirely closeted in the hotel, overdosing on workshops and networking, I had to get out and see a bit of the city. My usual destinations when I travel: museums, churches, food, and music.

St Patrick's Cathedral

Churches included St. Patrick’s Cathedral, St. Malachy’s (the Actors church) in the Theatre District, and a quick pop into St Mary’s episcopal church (the parish church of midtown). I’d been to St. Patrick’s on my previous visit and I knew I had to go back. Located near the busy Rockefeller Centre and Saks, it’s nearly always crawling with tourists. Fortunately, the tourists are generally quiet and respectful. Stepping into the cool, incense and candle-wax scented air is a welcome break from the noise of people and traffic just outside the doors.

St. Malachy’s is much smaller. In the middle of the block, it’s the sort of church that you might just stroll by, mistaking its front for yet another theatre in the Theatre District. I popped in on my way back from a run to the grocery store for breakfast items, and it was one of the loveliest churches I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. If I lived in NYC, I could see myself going there regularly just to enjoy the peace and quiet. I have no idea of its history, but it is billed as the ‘Actors Church’. Given its location, I imagine that it is more likely to be attended by actors.

The Birdland.

I didn’t visit a lot of restaurants on this trip. However, there’s one that is now one of my favourite restaurants ever. Zen Palate. Located on 9th Avenue at 46 Street, it’s a vegetarian restaurant with primarily Asian cuisine. There was so much on the menu that I had a hard time deciding, but I finally settled on a Portobello mushroom burger with yam fries. (No, that doesn’t sound especially Asian, but most of the rest of the menu was.) I wish we’d been able to stay and sample more dishes, but we were running late, having to get back to the hotel to get ready for the RITAs.

My favourite evening out was on Wednesday, when I had the evening to myself. A bit of googling found the Birdland jazz club on W 44 Street just past 8th Avenue. They have early shows on Wednesdays and I got there just in time to catch the performance of the Louis Armstrong Centennial band. They played a selection of tunes, all classic jazz, from Armstrong to Duke Ellington, and more. After the crush of people during the first day of the conference, I couldn’t have asked for anywhere better to sit and unwind.

The interior of the Birdland.

It’s difficult for me to explain exactly what it is that music does to me. Sitting on that bar stool, sipping my drink and listening to the jazz, I felt the stress drain away. The music takes over.

A flute of kir royale (with a twist of lemon) led to another, and then a full meal, including a very delicious mushroom risotto. If I could have stayed there all night, I would have. The interior of the club is dark, with a red glow from the stage-lights, and the gleam of the neon that encircles the top of the bar. Framed photos of jazz legends adorn the walls and half the club is taken up with tables, spread with linen, in front of the stage. The other half, on the far side of the bar, is bar stools along the window, and several small high tables. The bar seats come with a cheaper cover charge, so I sat there. The bartender (whose name I never got, and should have) was friendly, and the service was excellent.

Art at the Museum of Sex.

I managed to visit one museum on this trip, taking in the Museum of Sex with some of the other RWA attendees, Daisy Harris, Tiffany Reisz, Monica Kaye and Andrew Shaffer. There were three floors and a gift shop. The first floor highlighted sex in film, from the early silent era, through the Hayes code, and into modern pornography. The second floor dealt with sex in comics, vintage photos, and featured an entire wall of Disney characters engaged in sexual behaviour. (I’d love to know why Disney hasn’t come down on them, but I’m glad they haven’t.) The third floor was an exhibit on sexual behaviour in animals, sometimes with video footage. We’re really not all that different from the bonobo monkeys, apparently…

The only thing that disappointed me about the museum was its very tight focus. I would have liked to see a display of sex toys throughout the ages (ancient dildos, etc.), and just some overall greater depth. However, it was worth the visit.

Most of my other wandering was around the Times Square area, during breaks between events, so I didn’t stray too far from the hotel. Popped into the huge Toys R Us, the Hershey chocolate store, a music store, and a few other places. On my last morning there, I had a chocolate croissant (pain chocolat, to the French) and a glass of juice at the Blue Fin (normally a sushi bar, but it had a breakfast menu) before I went to the airport. On my next trip to NYC, I plan to take in more museums.