As a general principle, if something in a book store has an “Oprah’s Book Club” sticker on it, I steer way, way, way clear of it. I’ve had many literary influences in my life, but I just can’t get my brain around the notion that we’ve become a nation that selects its reading material based on a daytime talk show host’s personal preferences.
Most of the time, it’s not an issue, since she likes stuff I wouldn’t ever read anyway. That said, I was furious when she put her tag on Cormac McCarthy’s magnificent The Road. After I’d already read it, just for the record.
And, yeah, I know, I know, I know, Oprah’s more than just a TV personality, she’s a media mogul, renaissance woman, yada yada blada blah, so don’t waste your time sending me hate mail to tell me that, please and thanks. Fact of the matter in my life is, the only time I ever hear about Oprah is when she does some stunt on her TV show like the car giveaway or letting Tom Cruise out of his cage, or when her weight fluctuates more than usual, one way or the other.
I don’t care about either of those things. Almost as much as I don’t care about the state of Angelina Jolie’s womb, or what Amy Winehouse has growing out of her beehive, or what the Simpson or Spears women are doing this week to make the nation think that all Southerners are idiots. And given that fact, I don’t care what any of them are reading.
Now, if Muhammad Ali had a book of the month club, I’d be totally into that. Or Walter Becker’s Book of the Month Club. I’d join that, for sure. Or Maureen Dowd’s. I’d also sign up for clubs sponsored by Maya Angelou, Robert Fripp, Isabelle Huppert, David Thomas, David Lynch, Gene Krantz, Robert Wyatt, Nelson Mandela, or the folks who drive Mars Rovers for a living. I’d love to know what’s on all of their bedtime tables. I’d eat that information up, if they’d share it.
Problem is, while I’d love knowing what they read, since I’m interested in them (as opposed to, say, Oprah), odds are that I wouldn’t actually read it myself. This is because while I read voraciously, what I like and read regularly tends to break down into four pretty standard, repetitive categories, as follows:
10% Fiction: Usually I will read new books by the the dozen or so authors I know I already really like. Breaking in new authors is so risky and hard. Why bother, neh?
40% Natural History: Ideally books about bugs, trilobites, fish, or birds, or parasites that live(d) on bugs, trilobites, fish and birds, or things that eat/ate bugs, trilobites, fish or birds, or interesting theories about the ways that bugs, trilobites, fish and birds interact with or influence people. I’m a bugs, trilobites, fish and birds kinda guy, y’know?
40% Music Biography: I have read at least half a dozen full-length books about Genesis, to cite but one example of my vast contemporary rock biography collection. And if someone comes out with a credible new book about Genesis next year, I will read that one too. Because someone has to, right? And it might as well be me.
10% Tales of Human Suffering: People falling off of Mount Everest, going insane in the Arctic because of the toxins in their tinned food, or trying to walk across the Sahara Desert alone will always be welcome in my book collection.
So, with all that noted, maybe I should have my own book club, for people who like fiction by familiar authors, books about bugs, trilobites, fish or birds, rock biography, or tales of human suffering. Does that sound like you? Alright then! Let’s read! When I feel like it, I mean.
This every-so-often’s book recommendation is Bandalism: Do Not Destroy Your Group by Julian Ridgway (2007, SAF Publishing). This is a great, humorous, knowledgeable work that will appeal to anyone who has ever been in or wanted to be in rock band, as it describes and documents in loving, obsessive detail the concept of “bandalism,” which the author defines as “the willful or malicious destruction of or damage to a rock/pop/indie group brought about by one or more of its members.”
When I picked the book off the shelf in the book store, I randomly flipped to a page that offered a step-by-step flow chart of how to deal with this problem: “Dave Won’t Switch From Guitar to Bass.” Which is hilarious and helpful alike, if you’ve ever had to deal with that situation, which most people who have played in bands likely have. What a hoot! (If this does not seem like a hoot, then we probably shouldn’t be in the same book club anyway. Just saying.)
This book also appeals to me, egomaniac that I am, because it provides a nonfiction analog to the novel that I wrote, (which is actually called Eponymous, and not Eponymous: A Customized Journal for Ages 10-18, as Amazon recently re-titled it, for reasons mysterious, but nonetheless amusing). Eponymous was essentially a tale of bandalism of the worst order, as the fictional group Arctangent gets ever-so-close to stardom, only to be scuttled time and time again by their horrific screw-up of a bass player, Collie Hay.
Who isn’t me, no matter what anyone might tell you. Really. Here’s what Wilson Smith said about Collie in his review of my book: “Collie is a darkly humorous — no, make that hysterically funny — self-loather, one who seems to do bad things mostly in order to justify feeling bad about himself. He’s a slacker who, perhaps deliberately, sabotages himself repeatedly and thereby avoids the pain of failure that he’d feel were he to shoot for success and not quite make it.”
I only wish that I’d read Bandalism before I wrote Eponymous, since then I would have had a word to better, more succinctly describe Collie’s behavior. Now I do, hooray!
So there you go. You’ve got Bandalism, the first entry in Eric’s Book of the Every-So-Often Club, along with a plug for my own long lost work. I can guarantee you Oprah will not endorse these books, if that helps you decide whether you want them or not.