Three this week.
Dean & Me: A Love Story: Jerry Lewis -I've always had a passing interest in the Rat pack and that generation of entertainers. These were very talented men, but also very flawed. To almost a man, they cheated on their wives, associated with murderers, rapists and thieves and they had egos bigger than the moon. Nonetheless, they were fascinating.
Jerry and Dean were what came before. They had all the flaws, but still entertained a generation of people in post-war America. Dean was the smooth, older guy with the charm and the nice voice. Jerry was the monkey. Jerry got all the press. Dean played golf.
The book spans the length of the duo's career, their personal lives at the time, and what led to their break-up. It seems like a frank portrayal of who they were. Jerry Lewis is foul-mouthed, crusty, but still funny. I don't know that I buy the humility all the time. He shoulders a lot of responsibility for how things worked out, but I get the impression the end of their partnership and the loss of that friendship for 30 years or so was a heavy burden for Lewis.
It's an interesting read and a nice overview of the celebrity culture of the late 1940s and early 1950s without a decency filter.
The Tell-tale Lilac Bush: Ruth Ann Musick -For years, when I worked at the bookstore, high school kids would come in looking for this one. It was part of a reading list and a book we never seemed to keep in stock when needed.
This is similar to the Foxfire books. It takes the oral tradition of telling ghost stories and puts it to paper. Some of the stories are fun. Others are duller than dirt, but it makes for some thought-provoking reading. According the Musick's editorials in the book, there aren't as many vengeful or evil ghost stories in West Virginia (I'm summarizing). They're more helpful or sad. These stories are largely that. Somebody meets with a gruesome end, but they don't come back to get even or if they do, they only do it in a kind of half-assed way: rattle some chains, glow and moan a bit. Occasionally, there is some punishment, but usually it's just a lot of spiritual bitching and encouragement to move. It sort of parallels the state's justice system.
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom: Corey Doctorow -Philip K. Dick can do wonders making the unbelievable and outright bizarre seem plausible and lived in. Doctorow can't do that, but he still has glimmerings of brilliance.
In some not entirely distant future, most of the ills of the world have been eliminated. People are spreading out among the stars. Hunger and disease have been effectively wiped out. Cloning has been perfected, as well as the ability to digitally transferring consciousness and human memory, essentially removing the need for anyone to die. When you get sick or injured, you grow a new body and the last back-up of your mind is implanted. This is pretty convenient in the event you're killed hang gliding or murdered by rivals in a theme park. People also kill themselves off to be reloaded to avoid minor inconveniences, like having a cold. They also occasionally "dead head," kill themselves off and take a vacation from being alive.
Real money has been replaced by the wealth provided by esteem. The more people like, respect and fear you, the more important you are in the system. This is calculated by computers, which everyone has embedded in their heads.
People don't so much earn a living as find interesting things to do to amuse themselves and others.
Doctorow never quite sells me on his post-human world, but provides some ideas for what might happen if wealth and want were eliminated.