BOOK REVIEW: LINDY WEST – SHRILL – NOTES FROM A LOUD WOMAN

 

Lindy West was one of the highlights from this year’s All About Women festival at the Sydney Opera House. So it is unsurprising that this Guardian columnist and Jezebel blogger’s book, Shrill – Notes From A Loud Woman is funny, accomplished and excellent. West’s book is ultimately a hybrid between memoir, with personal anecdotes, and essays, where she writes about important issues and uncomfortable truths in a compelling and articulate way.

For those people who are unfamiliar with West’s work, the Seattle-born writer first came into prominence while working as a film critic for Seattle’s alternative newspaper, The Stranger. Her review of Sex & The City 2 went viral. Initially her work focused on reviews of the arts, film and comedy but over time she started to become an activist for causes she felt strongly about, and a lot of these causes are covered in some detail in Shrill.

This volume opens with West’s account of growing up as a shy, fat girl. She admits that she was once so overwhelmed and consumed with shyness that she was unable to ask her classroom teacher if she could be excused in order to go to the bathroom. In the end Lindy peed her pants and she tried to blame this on a nearby water jug.

For years West grappled with the shape of her body and society’s demands, where women are often taught from birth that we should be small both physically and in presence. But over time West realised that she could not ignore the fact that she was fat. She also came out of her shell, and all of these things meant that Lindy eventually came to the realisation that she wanted to obliterate those views that permeate society.

Lindy’s fat activism means she’s received her fair share of negative retaliation. Her former editor, Dan Savage tried to weigh into the fat debate, using the argument that accepting fatness contributes to the obesity epidemic. West, however, addressed the argument raising the idea that fat people should not be considered acceptable human punching bags. West’s arguments were both well-considered and thoughtful. It is this same style that was particularly evident in West’s TV debate with comedian Jim Norton, over rape jokes in comedy,  and as well through much of this book.

Shrill includes a lot of things that are clearly quite personal to Lindy. One of the hardest parts to read is where she takes on one of her meanest internet trolls. They had created a Twitter page where he pretended to be West’s father, Paul, shortly after he had passed away. The troll also wrote that Paul West was the “Embarrassed father of an idiot.” This broke Lindy’s heart and she penned an essay about the ordeal. The troll eventually apologised to her and the two had a frank and open discussion on an episode of This American Life. Score sheet Lindy West: 1 Trolls: 0.

In Shrill, West should be commended for tackling some uncomfortable topics (abortion, rape, periods, etc.) and for being outspoken, witty and sassy in her remarks. West makes some compelling arguments, whilst also letting the reader in on some very intense and private moments from her own life (including her love for her husband, Ahamefule J. Oluo). Shrill is ultimately a bit of a rollercoaster ride where you’ll laugh, cry, feel rage and be jubilant at West’s uncompromising and relatable anecdotes and prose. West clearly knows how to strike a chord with readers, so some things are a laughing matter, others will appeal to your grey matter, and then there are even more topics that just matter. Period.

 

Originally published on 19 March 2017 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/reviews/book-review-lindy-wests-shrill-will-make-you-laugh-cry-rage-and-feel-jubilant-at-her-uncompromising-prose/

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/

BOOK REVIEW: EMILY REYNOLDS – A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO LOSING YOUR MIND

 

English freelance journalist Emily Reynolds was a teenager when she first developed bipolar disorder. It proved a hard diagnosis because it took around a decade of visits to health-care professionals and a cocktail of different medications in order to settle on the right ones. While on this journey, Reynolds researched and read the books that were available about mental illness, but she was unable to find one that resonated with her own unique condition. A Beginners Guide to Losing Your Mind is a result of Reynolds filling this gap.

 

To read the rest of this review please visit the following website: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/reviews/book-reviews/201703/225677

Visit 100% Rock’s homepage at: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/

 

BOOK REVIEW: DR HELENA POPOVIC – NEUROSLIMMING

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We live in an obesogenic environment. It’s a world of fast living, sedentary jobs and leisure activities, labour-saving devices, and an overabundance of cheap, accessible, energy-dense, nutrient poor, highly-processed foods. It’s also an environment where a growing majority of people are overweight or obese and those who succeed in shedding weight will often find themselves regaining it (and possibly more) in the 12 months after the fact.

NeuroSlimming looks to address some of these problems and get people to really stop and think about how and why they eat, rather than getting too hung up on what they consume.

 

To read the rest of this review please visit the following website: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/reviews/book-reviews/201702/223334

Visit 100% Rock’s homepage at: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/

BOOK REVIEW: JEANETTE WINTERSON – CHRISTMAS DAYS

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Joy to the world, Christmas Days is a collection of twelve short stories and other tid-bits that celebrate the festive season. The book is written by Jeanette Winterson (Why be Happy When You Could be Normal?) an author who by her own admission loves Christmas and this could be due to the fact that she was adopted by a family of Pentecostal Christians. Winterson states on the cover that Christmas is: “A tradition of celebration, sharing and giving. And what better way to do that than with a story?”

To read the rest of this review please visit the following website: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/reviews/book-reviews/201612/213480

Visit 100% Rock’s homepage at: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/

BOOK REVIEW: MOLLY MELDRUM & JEFF JENKINS – AH WELL, NOBODY’S PERFECT – THE UNTOLD STORIES

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John Lennon once sang that life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. This idea rings true for Australia’s National Living Treasure and Lennon’s friend, Ian “Molly” Meldrum. The music journalist, talent coordinator, TV host, DJ and record producer has had a brilliant career spanning multiple decades. Ah Well, Nobody’s Perfect is a celebration of all of this, because it sees Meldrum spinning many yarns and anecdotes along with the help of fellow music journalist, Jeff Jenkins and a cast of famous friends and confidantes.

Molly Meldrum has already been the subject of a biography with 2014’s The Never, Um, Ever Ending Story: Life, Countdown and Everything in Between. His first memoir focused predominantly on his time working on ABC TV’s Countdown (a youth culture show). In the latest instalment of Meldrum’s biography, he includes anecdotes from this period (and dedicates the book to Countdown’s creator, the late Michael Shrimpton) as well as describing his work on Hey Hey It’s Saturday and Sunday Night. Meldrum has interests outside of music and this book also includes his love for the Australian cricket team, AFL’s Saint Kilda Saints and the NRL’s Melbourne Storm. The memoir is also named after a line from Meldrum’s favourite film, Some Like It Hot.

Meldrum’s early life is briefly covered in this second book. We learn that he was a country boy from Quambatook Victoria and about his first jobs. This information is interesting, but you get the sense that Molly is a private individual and that we are barely scratching the surface here. Instead, most of this volume is about Molly’s encounters with famous musicians and individuals from the music and TV industries. In some respects, Meldrum’s life shares things in common with photographer, Tony Mott in that both have met and worked with famous celebrities and they both have a swag bag full of great stories to tell. Both Meldrum and Mott would make excellent dinner party guests – you know that there’d never be a dull moment!

The book is a mixture of different anecdotes and stories. It bounces around describing different subjects, something that is very much like Molly’s spirited interview technique. It’s a haphazard approach where different tangents are explored and time is not a linear concept. This means that one chapter you can be reading the questions and answers from Molly’s appearance on Who Wants to be a Millionaire (where he won $500,000 for charity) to moving on to recollections from Michael Gudinski and other important individuals, and then on to travel tips from Molly, that are very much inspired by real experiences. The stories are rich and vivid and they deal with the notorious parties, heated fights, amazing days and unmitigated disasters from Molly’s life. This man in a hat comes across as a lovely, enthusiastic music fan and self-deprecating character who is a practical joker at heart but also not precious about when people are laughing at his expense.

Ah Well, Nobody’s Perfect is a fun and entertaining book by a true music fan and a natural storyteller. It is easy to get lost in these entertaining yarns. The story is from a larger-than-life character who delivers his observations and opinions on the madness, mirth and most of all, the music. All that’s left to say is that any self-respecting music fan should do themselves a favour and immerse themselves in Molly’s Melodrama!

Originally published on 31 October 2016 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/reviews/book-review-ah-well-nobodys-perfect-by-molly-meldrum-jeff-jenkins-is-about-the-madness-mirth-and-music-surrounding-mollys-melodrama/

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/

BOOK REVIEW: MICK WALL – PRINCE: PURPLE REIGN

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Prince was an enigma. And after reading a biography like Prince: Purple Reign the artist formerly known as remains a real mystery. The book is by the accomplished music journalist Mick Wall, and while it presents some facts, anecdotes and chronology about Prince’s life, there are many aspects that are glossed over or omitted from this slender volume.

Wall begins the biography in an objectionable way, including the verbatim 911 call from Prince’s home by an unidentified male on the day the musician’s body was discovered. This biography is bookended by salicaceous text, because at the end also sees Wall speculating on Prince’s alleged addiction to pain killers and other drugs. Fortunately, the rest of the book seems to be more focused on the music and the art.

Purple Reign does not offer any new information for the diehard Prince Rogers Nelson fan (and it is these readers who will notice some glaring mistakes and omissions.) Instead, this biography relies on secondary sources like the few interviews the artist gave himself, as well as articles and books delivered by those closest to Prince. The story is by no means comprehensive, but it does at least present a straight-forward, easy-to-read chronology of the majority of Prince’s projects. This in itself is no mean feat considering how prolific this talented, composer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist was.

Mick Wall is no stranger to the world of music. He is a music fan through and through. He was also an early champion of Prince’s music as well as many other artists he wrote about in his decades spent working as a music journalist. Wall is also a prolific writer himself, having penned dozens of music biographies for the likes of AC/DC, Lou Reed, Metallica, Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam, to name a few. There is no question that Wall is an excellent writer who creates interesting sentences that are easy-to-read and follow, but these biographies do feel like they barely scratch the surface.

For casual fans, Purple Reign may satiate your appetite for learning about Prince’s background and the wider cultural context he operated in. There are some interesting moments where you learn about his quest for artistic freedom and his insatiable appetite for writing, recording and creating. But for those readers who want books with more in-depth analysis of their favourite artist, Purple Reign will leave them hungry for a book with more diamonds and pearls.

Originally published on 26 September 2016 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/reviews/book-review-prince-purple-reign-by-mick-wall/

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/

BOOK REVIEW: CAM BARBER – WHAT’S YOUR MESSAGE? PUBLIC SPEAKING WITH TWICE THE IMPACT, USING HALF THE EFFORT

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Cam Barber knows how to walk the talk. A professional public speaker and speaking coach, he has written a very engaging and useful book titled, What’s Your Message? It promises that it can allow readers to make twice the impact using half the effort. On this count it delivers thanks to its practical and logical approach that can be adapted for different audiences and situations.

In this book Barber dispels a number of myths about public speaking. Barber traces the original instructions about public speaking back to actors where there was an emphasis on rules regarding body language and performance. Barber claims that this often confused people and made them even more anxious. He also says that a natural delivery can make a speaker seem more relaxed and credible. This guide uses rich, real-life case studies about people like Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Anita Roddick and more in order to prove that good public speakers are not necessarily born but they can be made with good practice and instruction.

In addition to the examples, anecdotes and case studies, Barber also describes “The Vivid Method.” It’s one he has devised himself with respect to offering guidelines and ways to prepare for public speaking. There are handy hints, tips and suggestions as well as some easy-to-follow examples and templates that can be used every day. The key point Barber makes is that the message needs to be clear, consistent and concise.

What’s Your Message has summarised a lot of complex information and elaborated on some key concepts. It also demystifies a lot of myths and offers practical insights that can be used in almost any situation. In short, What’s Your Message is a handy guide that is engaging, rational and fun and will allow readers to speak in public in a rather simple, effortless manner, which should be commended.

***Please note: a free copy of this book was won by the writer thanks to a Goodreads giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27315152-what-s-your-message

COMEDY REVIEW: STEPHEN K AMOS @ ENMORE THEATRE SYDNEY (06.05.2016)

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Stephen K Amos knows Australians. The English comedian has been visiting our fine country for over a decade and he even has the nasally accent down pat. His show at the Enmore Theatre for the Sydney Comedy Festival was a rather clever look at life both in general as well as different observations and anecdotes from his own.

The show began with Amos giving a quick disclaimer telling us not to expect deep meaning and pathos. It was all about the funny and some of the recent events in his life, including his shows in Newcastle that had given him inspiration on the comedic front. Amos talked about negotiating a difficult door in a hotel and some rather strange problems with breakfast (it was a place where you could have your eggs any way you like but the kitchen had apparently run out of “omelette mix”).

Amos held his own in tackling some rather difficult subjects including politics and Australia’s casual racism. The funny man had been a recent guest on Australian breakfast TV and was told he didn’t need make-up despite being on ultra HD (the make-up artist neglected to fess up and admit that he didn’t have the appropriate colour foundation on-hand). And let’s not forget the stupid talk show host who was convinced that Amos had starred in the Hollywood film, 12 Years a Slave. There was also his popular riff on the jellybeans called Chicos (you’ll have to look this one up yourselves).

The internet, technology and social media were also popular topics for Amos who doesn’t need to be reminded about when his birthday or anyone else’s is, thankyou Facebook. There was also a funny gag about Amos’s version of portable music where he once inadvertently picked up his Mum’s sewing machine rather than a record player in a similar case. Amos is a rather eloquent speaker and he even had a few great one-liners, especially when he described one stupid guy as: “His head was so empty the wheel was turning but the hamster was dead”.

The Englishman made some fine jokes and he did this with great consideration, often by taking his time to set up the material before the eventual pay-off. Amos is a rather clever comedian that in general hits his stride in the live environment and this is something that we Aussies have come to know and love.

Originally published on 8 May 2016 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/reviews/sydney-comedy-festival-review-stephen-k-amoss-the-laughter-master/

Visit The Au Review’s homepage dedicated to the arts at: http://arts.theaureview.com

DVD REVIEW: THE WRECKING CREW

MONTREAL, QUE.: June 05, 2012 -- (UNDATED) - Carol Kaye and Bill Pitman on guitar at Gold Star, circa 1963. Courtesy of GAB Archive/Redferns. Fom The Wrecking Crew, by Kent Hartman from Raincoast Books.

For the record, The Wrecking Crew were an amazing group of musicians. It’s also the name of a group of artists you’re unlikely to have heard of, except in their music. The Wrecking Crew is a film that looks set to redress all that because it plays out like a love letter to some unsung heroes of American music, especially West Coast sounds from the sixties and seventies.

The film is directed and narrated by Denny Tedesco, the son of Wrecking Crew guitarist, Tommy Tedesco. The documentary commenced shooting in the nineties shortly after Tedesco senior was diagnosed with cancer (and this fact is painfully obvious in the fuzzy visuals and video footage captured with the wrong aspect ratio for films). Tommy Tedesco was an amazing artist and raconteur and his contribution to this film is great and like his session musician colleagues, he offers some real musicality as well as interesting and funny anecdotes from his life at the top and what happened after the bubble burst.

The Wrecking Crew had a revolving cast of approximately 20 members playing guitars, bass, drums, horns, strings and percussion. They put their invisible stamp on everything from The Mamas & The Papas to The Monkees, The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds record and Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” (think The Righteous Brothers, The Ronettes and The Crystals). These studio musicians also played on numerous advertising jingles and TV themes like Bonanza, Batman and The Pink Panther, to name a few.

This documentary draws together interviews with some of the artists that utilised the group’s services. Brian Wilson, Nancy Sinatra, Cher, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, Al Jardine and Roger McGuinn are interviewed as well as Dick Clark and actual members of The Wrecking Crew, most notably Carol Kaye, Hal Blaine and Earl Palmer. Some of this footage is quite dated (Cher speaks kindly of Phil Spector who is currently in prison while Wrecking Crew member-turned-solo-artist, Glen Campbell speaks insightfully despite his now being hospitalised for Alzheimer’s disease and let’s not start on the people who are long passed away since filming began).

This documentary has the perfect soundtrack and it was musical licensing issues that held up its release in the first place. It’s really interesting to hear these lesser known artists talk, much like it was enjoyable to hear from the back-up singers in Twenty Feet From Stardom and Motown session musicians in Standing In The Shadows Of Motown.  But The Wrecking Crew is far from flawless and it is a little ramshackle and disorganised at times. The narrative arc is a little unclear and it does oscillate between being a story about the whole ensemble and just focusing on Tedesco’s individual one. If you can look past these minor hiccups, however, you can still have a thoroughly enjoyable journey or carpet ride through great walls of sound.

The Wrecking Crew is a fun little film about the hard-working, talented and dedicated group of musicians by the same name who transformed sixties pop music and more. This is an enjoyable and entertaining nostalgia trip about some little-known subjects who are finally receiving their long-overdue kudos and plaudits. In all, this is one unpolished and illuminating documentary gem about a halcyon chapter of American music.

 

Originally published on 7 March 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/the-wrecking-crew-dvd-review/

Visit Impulse Gamer’s homepage at: http://www.impulsegamer.com/

BOOK REVIEW: RICHARD SAUERMAN – ARE YOU LIVING YOUR RESUME OR YOUR EULOGY? & OTHER SHORT STORIES & ANECDOTES

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Are You Living Your Resume Or Your Eulogy? is a little book that contains some big messages. It’s a motivational, self-help one from Richard Sauerman who is better known as “The Brand Guy”. The latter has made it his full-time job to challenge people and teams to do “epic shit” and this title offers just enough positive psychology to enable readers to do the same.

This volume is divided into seven parts and contains anecdotes and inspirational short stories as well as advice that is easy to follow. It is trying to shock people out of their humdrum complacency and make them think twice about their actions. One particularly striking story is about a busking concert violinist in Washington DC that is included in order to remind us about the many beautiful things we pass every day without even noticing.

The biggest message in this manual is to get people thinking about their achievements. It also asks them to question whether their life is being lived like a list of resume items or things they’d actually like to be mentioned in their eulogy. It’s frank and down-to-earth and should allow some people to step back and realise that they’re not living up to their full potential.

Are You Living Your Resume or Your Eulogy? is a hodgepodge of different vignettes, tales and advice, which should force readers to ask some big questions and confront some larger issues.  It is ultimately an honest and inspirational chapter that should have a little something that resonates with everybody. In all, this is a small book that offers up some important food for thought.

 

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Goodreads giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27919353-are-you-living-your-resume-or-your-eulogy

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