Sunday, December 29, 2013

Best of 2013: Music and Dystopia

Two of the many items enjoyed by Burbank Public Library staff during 2013, recommended for your consideration:

Louder Than Hell:
The Definitive Oral History of Metal
by Jon Wiederhorn and Katherine Turman

If you had a heavy metal youth—and, hey, who didn’t?—that thing is going to stay with you forever. Even as you “mature” and your “tastes change,” the power of metal, with its raw audacity (“raw-dacity”?) and its visceral yawp, is something that will always pulsate inside. Sometimes you’ll look back and you’ll wonder if metal was the closest thing you ever had to knowing truth.

And deep down, you’ll know that of course it wasn’t, don’t be ridiculous.

But nevertheless, your metal period was the time when you gave yourself over to the music most fully, and even if it seems overblown and somewhat ridiculous now, that experience is still important to you.

Getting in touch with your heavy metal youth is not always easy. Who has the time in these go-go ’90s? And sometimes listening to blistering heavy metal music that you used to like by yourself in your car as you go buy organic cat food at Trader Joe’s can make you feel not rad, but sad.

Guaranteed to fill you with good, strong, powerful heavy metal feelings, however, is Louder Than Hell, an oral history of metal by Jon Wiederhorn and Katherine Turman. Starting with its late ’60s Black Sabbath origins and ending up with whatever terrible thing is happening in metal at present, the book gets into it real good with interviews with main players in the careers of KISS, AC/DC, Def Leppard, Van Halen, Mötley Crüe, Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Nine Inch Nails, Tool, Pantera, Guns N’ Roses, and on and on and on. Booze! Girls! Fights! Drugs! Suicide! Satan! Plane crashes! But mostly, rock and roll and good times.

It purports to be the definitive oral history of metal, and what does that mean? Well, among other things, it means it’s super long and talks about a bunch of bands you’ve never heard of. There will be whole chapters where you don’t really know any of the bands being discussed or why you’re reading about them. Go ahead and skip these parts. It’s okay. Because not only is this the best book I’ve ever read about heavy metal, it is also perhaps the greatest, most thoroughly enjoyable book I’ve ever read on any subject that I skipped about a third of and feel fine about.


And weighing in again with a different opinion on...

The Circle
by Dave Eggers

The Circle, the latest novel by Dave Eggers, asks, “Is Google going to take over everything?” The answer, of course, is yes.

Somebody had to write a book like this, with this point of view, and I’m glad it was a person with the stature and relative youth of Eggers. Any less famous and he’d be called a coot, any older and he’d be dismissed as a dinosaur. As it is, it’s an alarming work, and though it will likely be woefully dated in just a few years, it is so skillfully written and of this moment that it may be read by future generations about life in America just before the corporations, the computers, and the groupthink really took over.

I say skillfully written, though I mean mostly with turns of phrase and concepts, not so much plot. The Circle is really a platform from which to question the near-constant pressure we are under to comply with the wants of huge tech companies and their adherents. While we may not be too surprised to find out that corporations and the government are tracking us (I think we always kind of knew that), we don’t often realize how much pressure we’re under from our friends and peers, the regular people who’ve somehow been convinced that it’s cool to think that these gigantic corporations are cool. Every day we feel pressure from each other to be increasingly online for every little social action, to buy new devices or face social shame, to share more and more personal information.

You’d think everybody would have seen or read enough bad dystopian movies and books that we wouldn’t have to worry about such things in real life, but here we are.

Anyways, Happy New Year!

Reviewed by Jeff W., reference librarian

Editor's note: We have this as a hardcover book, e-book, and audio book.

1 comment:

Katherine Turman said...

Emme, thanks for the "Louder Than Hell" love! Just seeing this. I used to live on Alameda and Main--metal in Burbank is alive and well! - Katherine Turman