Tag Archives: music

Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe

Reckless Daughter Title: Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell
Author: David Yaffe
Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books, Macmillan USA
ISBN: 978-0374248130
Genre: NonFiction, Biography
Pages: 448
Source: Publisher

It was the forty-fifth episode of Ally McBeal. Ally is questioning true love and in the background a cover of “Both Sides Now” by Joni Mitchell starts playing. Sung by Vonda Shepard I think. This was the first time I heard the song and fell in love with the words. I was too young but I was growing-up gay (only known to me then) and somehow this song meant something. Something so much more. A year or two passed and then I realized that the original singer was Joni Mitchell. I fell in love with her, with her voice and with the way she is. The next time I heard a song of hers was “The Circle Game” and this time again it was through pop-culture, a movie called, “Married to It”. I have never looked back on not being her fan since then.

The reason I say this is anything to do with Joni Mitchell and I am putty. I am a softball, a mush-man who can cry at the drop of a hat. And only because she is a genius (at least to me she is). So, when a biography of hers released last year, I just knew I had to read it and when I did, I was astounded. Yaffe’s style is not only readable but also straightforward and he presents anecdotes with such ease and comfort, that you are almost transported to living Mitchell’s life with her.

He covers both her personal and professional life in equal measure, never favouring one over the other. This was the first time I was reading a book by him, but I am glad I did as this will not be the last. There is no excessive psychoanalysis of her life. There are facts and then there are her songs and music. To me her lyrics are of utmost beauty and Yaffe covers almost each song with ease and in detail (which is most needed). Yaffe also touches on her relationships and this connects very well with the person she is and how solitude was best suited for someone like her.

“Reckless Daughter” is a brilliant portrait of a legend when it comes to music and songs and singing. This book is almost a dedication to music and its forms, and no one better to represent it than Mitchell, in my opinion. Even if you haven’t heard her or know anything of her, I would recommend you go and read this book. It will make you listen to her and that will change your life.


The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story Expanded Edition by Vivek J. Tiwary, Andrew C. Robinson with Kyle Baker

The Fifth Beatle Title: The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story Expanded Edition
Author: Vivek J. Tiwary
Illustrated by: Andrew C. Robinson with Kyle Baker
Publisher:M Press; Expanded edition
ISBN: 978-1616558352
Genre: Graphic Novel, Graphic Memoirs
Pages: 176
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Not much is known about people behind the scenes in any profession. It is always people who hog the limelight, get spoken of or written about. Which is how the world works. The ones who are in the shadows rarely get any credit. Not to say that it happens to all. Maybe to some. Maybe not to some. And we all know of The Beatles – almost about all four of them, even some additions, but very few know of Brian Epstein, on which this graphic novel is based.

Brian Epstein was The Beatles’ manager. Actually, I think he was more than just their manager. He was their friend, philosopher and guide in the true sense of the phrase. “The Fifth Beatle” (as he was known after his death by Paul McCartney many years later) is the story of Brian. Not just because he discovered The Beatles and gave the world the joy of listening to them but also because people need to know the man behind this band and what he stood for to believe in four unknown musicians and make them the darlings of the pop music scene in a very short time.

Vivek J. Tiwary’s research is meticulous and the writing is spot-on. From speaking of Brian’s personal life (being gay and Jewish wasn’t easy on the man) to his professional life (despite having a soft corner for George, he never let that come in the way of furthering the career of The Beatles), Tiwary covers everything with just the right amount of content. It doesn’t feel too much, nor does it feel too little. Plus, the illustrations of Andre C. Robinson and Kyle Baker are so spectacular that you just go back and fix your gaze on so many panels.

Brian Epstein’s life comes to life in the true sense of the word through this graphic memoir and it doesn’t take a lot to read this one. If anything, I reread it because you can never get enough of a good graphic memoir and more so given I didn’t know anything about him or had heard of him at all before buying this one on a whim.

The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain

The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain Title: The Gustav Sonata
Author: Rose Tremain
Publisher: Chatto & Windus, Random House UK
ISBN: 978-1784740047
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 256
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

I don’t know how to begin this review. I will try. I will try to express what I feel – because what I feel about this book cannot really be put in words. “The Gustav Sonata” is one of those books that you keep coming back to after you have finished reading it. Not entirely, but in bits and pieces – to comprehend not the story but just to know that life works mysteriously sometimes and you cannot do much about it but live it for what it is.

I picked up this book on a whim. It was just one of those days when I entered Wayword and Wise and knew that I had to pick this one up. It was there – begging for my attention. When a book does that, you know you will love it, no matter what.

The book is set in a small town in Switzerland. World War II has ended but the effects remain, though not as much in this town. Gustav Perle grows up in this town and is certain of only one thing: He loves his mother who on the other hand is cool and distant with her son, never loving him, never showing him how she feels. Gustav’s only friend is the music prodigy Anton whom he adores. Anton just takes Gustav for granted since kids and well into adulthood. The story starts when they are children in 1947 and ends in 2002 when they are sixty, covering a gamut of explorations, emotions and what it means to be human.

The book is not only about their friendship, or about Gustav’s dead father or just the past and how it impacts the present and the future, but also about coming to terms with life and living it in its full glory or not. It is about a country that chose to be neutral and the impact that had on its citizens.

“The Gustav Sonata” is a big book with a big heart. It is delicate, sensible and asks the bigger questions of loyalty, betrayal, heartbreak and self-mastery in a way that no other book I’ve read has. It struck a chord in me in so many places. There were times I could not stop highlighting in the book – all I can say is that you must not let this year go by without reading this book. It will for sure change you in more than one way.

In the Company of a Poet: Gulzar in Conversation with Nasreen Munni Kabir

In the Company of a Poet - Gulzar in Conversation with Nasreen Munni Kabir Title: In the Company of a Poet – Gulzar in Conversation with Nasreen Munni Kabir
Author: Nasreen Munni Kabir
Publisher: Rainlight Rupa
ISBN: 9788129120830
Genre: Non-Fiction, Bollywood, Poetry
Pages: 208
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

There is perhaps only one Bollywood lyricist I adore and that has to be Gulzar. Not only as a lyricist but also as a poet, a director, a writer and everything rolled into one. There is something about what Gulzar Sahib does, that makes it all alright. Everything is relatable to life and what it has to give or take. Just about everything. So when there is nothing that he writes or anything that is written on him or with him, one just cannot resist but read it. Nasreen Munni Kabir has done Gulzar fans a huge favour by collaborating with him and producing a book of her conversations with him.

“In the Company of a Poet” is all about Gulzar – the man, the child of his parents, the brother, the father, the grandfather and the poet. It is everything that you wanted to know about the genius (I am taking the liberty to call him that, because to me he is exactly that), and nothing better than intimate conversations, through Skype and through meetings. Nasreen Munni Kabir has given us a treat in the form of these conversations.

I started reading the book on a rainy day and it was perhaps the only time for it. It took me a long time to finish it because I was in-between reads, however when I went back to it, I could not stop reading it. “In the Company of a Poet” is enthralling in the sense that it gives perspective after perspective and one doesn’t tire of them as a reader – Gulzar Saab’s view of things, people, the film industry, poetry and the world is just superlative. There is a sense of humour in what he says. There is nostalgia (even on this aspect, he has a wonderful way of looking at it). There is a sense of how things were and how they are. At the same time, he also is of the belief that one must learn the new and embrace it – as in his case, he learnt how to use Skype.

Gulzar Saab’s love for poetry is so evident, that one just wants to read more of it – his and other poets’ works as well. He speaks of how he got into movies, his experiences with Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Bimal Roy and R.D. Burman and many more legends. He talks of how he has to play tennis every morning without fail and about his relationship with his daughter and grandson. For me reading this book, was not just knowing about Gulzarji but also about the people connected to him and that felt just too good. He speaks of partition and his nightmares and that brought tears to my eyes. There are a lot of poems as well in the book, which only lend another voice.

“In the Company of a Poet” is an insightful read. Nasreen Munni Kabir’s questions and observations are well-thought of and planned. Her research is meticulous and she gives more than enough room to the poet and writer to speak and talk about his experiences. She is intuitive and has chalked down every bit of the conversation to detail. For every lover of Gulzar and his works, this is a must read.

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Book Review: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan Title: A Visit from the Goon Squad
Author: Jennifer Egan
Publisher: Anchor Books
ISBN: 9780307477477
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

When you finish reading a book of a stature such as “A Visit from the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan, you sit down, breathe and keep breathing, till the breath paces itself out and you aren’t gasping anymore. The effect of books has to be this way. It has to have the maddening reaction in a reader – the gasping, the constant thinking about the characters and more so how would their lives turn out after the book is finished. Would they have a life at all once the reader has ended the reading? Would he or she go back and revive them? If a book can evoke these thoughts, then it is of the most superb quality writing that existed.

“A Visit from the Goon Squad” is all about lives being lived and the ones that were lived in the past. The book according to me is all about memories, failed lives, failed loves and how somewhere in all of this, there is this bleak thought of giving hope a chance and seeing where life goes thereon. There is nothing sugar coated in the book. Egan gives the reader, “life” the way it is – harsh, uncompromising, difficult and sometimes worth living just for all of that. Bennie is an aging former punk rocker and record executive. Sasha is the young, troubled woman he employs. The book is essentially about their lives, their pasts and how it all merges into one big fascinating book.

Egan takes us through generations and different people through the two protagonists. The other characters are integral to the plot, because through them Bennie’s and Sasha’s lives are shown to the reader. The larger themes of the novel – loneliness, despair, a lost generation, materialism, the quest for happiness is so deeply embroiled in the book that the reader would find it very difficult to disassociate his emotions from them. The story skips back and forth in time, so initially, I did face some problem reading it, however once I got the hang of it, it was a breeze of a read. The passage of time is at the core of this book, with Egan orchestrating the entire book and making it fall into place with each character’s life revealing itself in each chapter.

I loved the second last chapter of the book, which is in the form of a Power Point Presentation. This is the uniqueness that I look for in books at times and it was superlative in this one. Egan’s characters are most humane and that is the most heartbreaking quality they possess. They make their mistakes, going through life, wanting to rectify it all, wanting that one chance at redemption to make things the way they were and this is where I most connected with the book. “A Visit from the Goon Squad” is something that will not let go of you that easily. You will relate with it and that is when it will play on your mind and heart, as all great books do.

Here are some quotes from the book:

“I don’t want to fade away, I want to flame away – I want my death to be an attraction, a spectacle, a mystery. A work of art.”

“If I had a view like this to look down on every day, I would have the energy and inspiration to conquer the world. The trouble is, when you most need such a view, no one gives it to you.”

“There are so many ways to go wrong. All we’ve got are metaphors, and they’re never exactly right. You can never just Say. The. Thing.”

“Time’s a goon, right? You gonna let that goon push you around?” Scotty shook his head. “The goon won.”

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