Here’s some more writing about reading.
This month, we try to recapture the spirit of a master and then read a book about the guy that they based the movie, “The Master” on.
Bob Dylan by Greil Marcus: Writings 1968-2010- 512 pages
This happens every time I watch “Almost Famous.” I finish the movie and decide I HAVE to read something by one of the great rock writers of the 60’s and 70’s. In the past, I’ve read Lester Bangs or Ben Fong Torres or a book of the great Rolling Stone interviews. This time, I decided to read Greil Marcus. I knew nothing about him except his name and the fact that he wrote a book called Mystery Train that I think was about Elvis. (It’s possible none of that is true. I don’t feel like googling.)
So, it’s “Bob Dylan by Greil Marcus: Writings 1968-2010.” The first line of the book, taking from a review of the album Self Portrait, is “What is this shit?” I was asking myself the same question until I finished reading. It’s like Greil Marcus or, more likely, his publisher typed “Greil Marcus Dylan” into a search engine and just included whatever came up. There are essays included in this connection that literally have nothing to do with Bob Dylan except for one fleeting reference. And a lot of the stuff that is about Dylan is about weird albums and strange concerts during his fallow period of the late 70’s and 80’s.
Blood on the Tracks is my favorite Dylan album. It came out in 1974. I was hoping this book would really get into that music. It does, but only briefly. Marcus spends more time criticizing Dylan’s born again period or writing about the Wallflowers.
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright- 448 pages
There’s a discernible difference in the way I pick what to read now that I read on an IPad as opposed to how I used to do it before, when I read actual printed books.
I used to go to the Barnes and Noble and just wander around for a couple of hours, grabbing things that looked interesting and deciding what to read and what not to. But now, as soon as I finish a book, I just log back onto IBooks and download something. It’s harder to happen upon a pleasant surprise when you’re searching by specific category.
So, that’s how I ended up reading Wright’s new book about Scientology. I saw it. Intellectually, I knew it would be interesting. In my heart, though, I wanted something that would excite me more. After a few minutes, I realized I wasn’t going to find that on IBooks that night, so I just bit the bullet and bought the Scientology book.
I was somewhat surprised by what I found. The first third of the book is dedicated to the history of the religion and its founder, L. Ron Hubbard. I kept having to stop and remind myself that this was a true story and not a crazy made up tale.
The book then went into the current structure of the religion, and while it was incredibly critical of Scientology’s power structure and the people at the highest levels, it didn’t pillory every day members who truly believe that the tenants of the religion help them live better lives.
Also, there’s plenty about Tom Cruise and John Travolta, which is really what I wanted to read about anyway.