Arts Desk

Five Books I’d Read: Quarter- and Midlife Crises Edition

in which the author discusses five books he'd read, if time permitted.

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1. Punk Slash! Musicals: Tracking Slip-Sync on Film, by David Laderman.
When you think of Sid Vicious, do you think of the actual Sid Vicious (dirty, ugly, acned, heroin-abusing), or do you think of Gary Oldman playing Sid Vicious (sort of dirty, not really acned, kind of handsome, not convincingly addicted to heroin) in Sid and Nancy? Or, when you think of Joey Ramone, do you think of the actual Joey Ramone (leftist, Jewish, dorky), or the idealized (right word?) version of Joey Ramone (juvenile-delinquent street hustler) presented in Rock 'n' Roll High School? Or, when you think of Jim Morrison, do you think of the actual Jim Morrison, or do you think of Val Kilmer playing Jim Morrison in The Doors? (This last isn't covered in Punk Slash! Musicals: Tracking Slip-Sync on Film, but, when I think about Jim Morrison (almost daily), I find myself thinking less of Jim Morrison/Jim Morrison (born 1943, died 1971, fat, bad dancer) than Val Kilmer/Jim Morrison (born 1959, still alive, not quite as fat, a better dancer) which might be a problem, or might not, depending on your view of Oliver Stone's The Doors, which I liked.)

2. This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness, by Laura Munson.
When husbands have midlife crises, their wives get frustrated, even if they are supportive and caring and, as author Laura Munson did, encourage their depressed partners to take helicopter lessons. But, unfortunately, no wife, no matter how supportive, can nurse a middle-aged husband through a midlife crisis, because the things the husband wants (sports cars, hair, a 20-year-old girlfriend) aren't their wives' job to provide. In the end, middle-aged husbands must help themselves (read: stop coveting sports cars, hair, and 20-year-old girlfriends) and, until they do, no amount of wifely solace will fill the sports-car/hair/20-year-old-girlfriend-shaped holes in their hearts. For this reason, there will always be midlife crises, because there will always be middle-aged men without hair, and there will always be sports cars and 20-year-old girls for them to covet, and their wives won't be able to help them (even if they write books about them). So, basically, if you're in a marriage and you're under 40 and you're reading this, know that some horrifying American Beauty-like scenario is in your future. Get psyched.

3. Inside the Hollywood Fan Magazine: A History of Star Makers, Fabricators, and Gossip Mongers, by Anthony Slide.
I was pumped to write 100-200 compelling words about this book, but got distracted by this Tiger Woods press conference. Why does he keep using the phrase "going forward" when referring to his post-treatment future? That's an expression you usually hear while getting yelled at in the office for using too many company envelopes to mail out your taxes.

4. Last Looks, Last Books: Stevens, Plath, Lowell, Bishop, Merrill, by Helen Vendler.
Modernist poetry by an insurance salesman, a suicide, an alcoholic, and someone who envied the suicide sure sounds like a real sad-face emoticon. But aren't sad-face emoticons what poetry classes in college are all about? But then, sometimes in undergraduate poetry class, you're the only dude, and then the whole experience can be a smiley-face emoticon, plus an easy A. But, on the other hand, if you stick with poetry too long, you end up in a graduate poetry class with a bunch of dudes (aka a "sausage party"), and that's a real double-sad-face emoticon, plus like $50,000 of debt and a quarter-life crisis.

5. A Ticket to the Circus: A Memoir, by Norris Church Mailer.
In 1948, Norman Mailer published a book called The Naked and the Dead about World War II, in which he describes the "stool" a young soldier excretes whilst in the middle of a battle. (The soldier dies.) Despite this penchant for gross details, Mailer convinced six women to marry him, two of whom wrote memoirs about it. Moral of the story: Being married to Norman Mailer isn't all fun and games, but it will get you a book deal. (Truth be told, I'd marry Norman Mailer to get a book deal. It could be fun: I'd listen to his boring stories about Muhammad Ali while he challenged me to push-up contests and unfavorably compared my writing to Gore Vidal's. I'd grow a barrel chest to match his and cultivate a shock of white hair. He could also write about my stool as much as he wanted. Life would rule.)

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