Culture & Criticism Since 2003
“In retrospect, Wenner could tell himself that when the moment of truth arrived, he had valued something more than money. He knew who he was. He was Mr. Rolling Stone.”
– Joe Hagan, Sticky Fingers, Page 484.
Love him or hate him, one has no choice but to acknowledge that Jann Wenner helped to shape a piece of modern culture when he launched Rolling Stone Magazine in San Francisco in 1967. From the beginning, Rolling Stone was about showing the reach of music and its impact on the world, many times telling the story through the eyes of the artists and the shapers of society. Additionally, Rolling Stone pressed the boundaries of convention, publishing pieces by mavericks like Hunter Thompson that forced the audience to take a position and stick to it. And now with Sticky Fingers (just released into trade paperback), New York journalist Joe Hagan has written the go-to reference on Wenner and Rolling Stone. Readers will note early on that Sticky Fingers is an ambitious book that captures an enigmatic personality who, in many ways, mirrors the path of the music that his magazine would document. As a reporter, how do you make palpable the reasons that caused throngs of readers from across the globe to cherish every next issue of Rolling Stone? Hagan accomplished the feat the only way it could be accomplished – by interviewing many of the subjects whom Wenner featured (Mick Jagger, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Bono), and then interweaving their remarks with pieces from Wenner’s private collection. The result is Sticky Fingers: A profound statement on the genesis and evolution of the most important magazine to rise from the ashes of the last 50 years. In the end, what’s truly indispensable about Sticky Fingers is found in the way that Hagan details the history of the magazine through never-before-told stories of the Wenner behind the mask, impeccably painting a picture of the man who guys like Bob Dylan and John Lennon trusted to help carry their work to the eyes and ears of the world. If you’re at all interested in why they chose Wenner to trust, then Sticky Fingers is a must-read for you.
It’s sometimes said that ones who are laughing the hardest are crying the loudest inside. And this book immediately makes readers think hard about the irony in this statement as renowned touring comedian Adam Clayton-Holland tells the most personal of tales. Tragedy Plus Time is a memoir about depression and its far reaching effects, with Clayton-Holland sharing the story of his despondency and the way his younger sister Lydia helped him recover. But the story does not end on a happy note. Going further, Clayton-Holland writes that after his career grew legs and his act blossomed, Lydia herself succumbed to overwhelming depression which eventually ended her life. Bluntly honest, refusing to look away from hard truths, Tragedy Plus Time explores myriad elements of a most misunderstood affliction: Does depression run in families and are there markers that might help practitioners better identify red flags in the adolescent population? Is the technological detachment endemic to this era actually stripping us of our identities and self worth? Clayton-Holland’s memoir unearths some tough questions and forces his audience to confront itself as it reads on. Ultimately, the goal is that Lydia’s death will not have been in vain, but instead, will help foster a deeper awareness of what, in some cases, is a terminal illness.
In this intense treatise by astrophysicist Tyson and writer Lang, readers are introduced to the ways the military is using astrophysics as a component of defense. By no means an easy read, Accessory To War is meant to be digested slowly and in moderate increments so that you can place the text in a real-time context. Once the fodder of science-fiction television, the subject matter of Accessory To War is now part of our new reality as nuclear-arms threaten the global population. In turn, this reference deserves our attention, for it provides a platform from which we can view the things the generals have added to their arsenal.
The world Schoen has created with The Moons of Barsk tells the story of four sapient elephants – a physicist; a young prophet; a shopkeeper; and a historian – at different junctures of their lives. One is dying; another is in love; one is trying to find his place in the universe; and yet another communicates with the dead. Suddenly clumped together, the four encounter a shadow society that has been manipulating the citizens of Barsk for their own pleasure. As we form our individual relationships with Schoen’s cast of characters, we quickly discover that the inner-workings of Barsk are not that much different from the bureaucracies endemic to America, where an amalgamation of sub-groups manipulate other sub-groups for their own benefit. Even through Schoen’s world is pure science fiction, it nonetheless deftly creates a real-time parallel that leaves his readers examining their own roles in a society slowly unraveling.
This marks the second installment of David Keck’s sharply written Eye of Heaven trilogy. Here, Durand Col and his cadre find themselves at a crossroads after beating back the mad duke. It’s a time when betrayal rules the land as Durand attempts to heal the chasms left by too many battles.