Current Reading - June 2022

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Current Reading - June 2022

1rocketjk
Jun 1, 11:49pm

I finished Good Rockin' Tonight: Sun Records and the Birth of Rock 'n' Roll by Colin Escott with Martin Hawkins. This is a fun, briskly written history of one of the seminal record labels in American popular music and it's founder and driving force, Sam Phillips. Phillips, in his relatively primitive Memphis recording studio, had an ear for unique, forceful--even raw--singers and musicians. His genius was that what he wanted to do was not to make these musicians fit popular molds, but instead to highlight each musicians raw qualities, to enhance the elements that made them stand out. Rather than smooth over the rough edges, Phillips wanted to make that roughness stand out in sharp relief, and he was skilled at getting the best of these musicians in the studio. He would listen to anybody, always hoping to find a diamond in the rough. In this manner, Phillips, through his famed record label, Sun, first brought to national prominence such stars as Howlin' Wolf, B.B. King, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and, most famously, Elvis Presley. None of them stayed very long with Phillips and Sun--his inability to promote more than one or two musicians at a time saw to that, as did the larger contracts that national record labels could offer once a musician's initial contract with Sun had run its course. But many of these musicians made their best and most enduring music in their early recordings with Phillips.

In the course of relating the rise and fall of Sun (though not Phillips, who went on to do just fine for himself in a slew of endeavors after his recording and promoting days were over), the authors also give us a revealing snapshot of the inner working of the popular music industry in America during the mid-1950s through mid-60s. In addition, there are fascinating thumbnail biographies of many of the most famous (and also the lesser known) musicians who came recorded for Sun to lesser or greater ultimate success.

2AndreasJ
Edited: Jun 6, 4:56am

Finished Det fallna imperiet yesterday, about Putin and his attempt to restore Russia’s place in the world. Written largely before the Feb 24 invasion.

I wasn’t too taken with it.

3Shrike58
Jun 6, 7:56am

Finished up Abstract Art: A Global History. Yes, I'd go so far as to say I was entertained.

4jztemple
Jun 9, 11:07am

Gave up after getting through about two-thirds of Toward the Setting Sun: Columbus, Cabot, Vespucci, and the Race for America by David Boyle. It started off well, but the author was constantly shifting between the three main characters (and Bartholomew Columbus) and eventually the book became a chore to read.

5ulmannc
Jun 12, 10:01am

>4 jztemple: Been there, done that! In fact God Bless the Devil falls into that cagegory of chore. The stories seem to have the same theme with a bit of "window dressing" that changes from one short "lie" to the other. It was written (accumulated?) under the direction of the Tennesse Writers' Project. If you do decide to read it, remember it was written in 1940. The sketches in it are fun to look at.

6jztemple
Edited: Jun 12, 8:38pm

7thereadingpal
Jun 14, 4:18am

8AndreasJ
Jun 14, 7:08am

>7 thereadingpal:

I recently (a few months ago) read Dodson's Afterglow of Empire and rather liked it. Should probably try his books about the New Kingdom at some point.

Currently at The Mercenaries of Hellenistic Crete, a doctoral thesis whose title makes it admirably clear what it's about.

9Shrike58
Jun 14, 7:19am

Finished Looking for the Good War. 50% polemic regarding the American history of deploying toxic sentimentality to create a usable past, 50% noodling literary and film analysis. I thought the book was worth the time I put into it but it doesn't hang together quite as well as I thought it would. I wouldn't have minded hearing more from Samet what lessons she thinks she's imparting to the West Point cadets as their literature instructor.

10jztemple
Edited: Jun 16, 12:13am

Finished an interesting Climax at Buena Vista: The American Campaigns in Northeastern Mexico 1846-47 by David Lavender. The book actually covers the start of the war through the battle of Buena Vista, with a good look at the political wrangles between the leading generals and the president. Well written and fun to read.

11jztemple
Jun 20, 3:20pm

Finished a couple of books. First up, Sail of the Century: America's Cup '87 by Stuart Alexander (and five others). The 1986/87 America's Cup (including the defender and challenger competitions) was my favorite of all the Cups I've been able to follow, but this book was a disappointment. It is a series of essays highlighting certain topics but not anything comprehensive.

And also finished Starman: The Truth Behind the Legend of Yuri Gagarin by Jamie Doran. Not too bad, although much of the story had to be based on suppositions and third party reminisces due to the strict Soviet restrictions on what could be said or published about Gagarin and his flight.

12Shrike58
Jun 20, 10:08pm

Done with Born in Blackness, which is mostly just a popularization of the "Atlantic World" historiography university history students have been learning for awhile, but delivered with a strong editorial edge by a one-time bureau chief of the "New York Times." I liked it, but it isn't the first time that I've been to this rodeo. It will be edifying for a lot of its readers though.

13Shrike58
Jun 22, 7:53am

Finished communing with Shadow: The Magnificent Machines of a Man of Mystery, a fine exercise in race-car porn; the photography does justify the term spectacular.

14jztemple
Jun 22, 10:53am

>13 Shrike58: That brings back memories! I've been following F1 since about 1970 and I not only remember UOP Shadow, I actually had a t-shirt with the logo. Sadly, it ended up in the rag bag decades ago.

15Shrike58
Jun 24, 8:20am

>14 jztemple: Cool. Right now would be a good time to get this book if you're so inclined, as good, relatively cheap, copies seem to be available. I can easily see in about three-four years the prices will be shock-inducing.

16thereadingpal
Jun 24, 1:05pm

I'm currently reading Storia Sociale dell'antica Grecia by Fritz Gschnitzer. More like, studying it for an exam, but it's interesting enough so far

17Shrike58
Jun 28, 7:29am

Wrapped up Science under Fire, which is mostly an examination of the resentments of cultural and religious elites against the social sciences, and "SCIENCE" as a stand-in for the unhappiness with modern mass society. The author means well, but his writing is less-than incisive at times.

18Shrike58
Jun 30, 6:38am

Finished N-4 Down, a lively chronicle of how the lives of Umberto Nobile and Roald Amundsen came to be intertwined, and the dream of exploring the North Pole by airship.