Books Acquired:
When the Game Was War, Rich Cohen
Great Jones Street, Don DeLillo

Progress Made:
Welcome to the Monkey House, Kurt Vonnegut

Books Finished:
The Crow Road, Iain Banks
Ashes to Ashes, Chris O’Leary
Ringo: With a Little Help, Michael Seth Starr

I finally finished Ashes to Ashes yesterday; I’d been saving the last few pages for a rainy day, and it was rainy as fuck. I did not go out, like seemingly half the town, to try and catch a glimpse of where Paul Thomas Anderson is filming his new opus in Northtown Arcata, opting instead to maintain my dryness and dignity.

I had forgotten that the first time we heard “Blackstar” was in the trailer for a long-forgotten TV show, The Last Panthers. This is not a clip from the song we know; it’s a fragment of an alternate version created specifically for the purpose:

O’Leary says that “Visconti and Bowie took a verse from the third section of ‘Blackstar’ and added different guitar tracks and effects than on the album.” He also says that about a minute was edited out of the album version so that it could be sold as an individual track on iTunes.

Who knows how many other versions of “Blackstar” are hibernating in a dark vault somewhere, alongside the five unfinished songs from that era and other mysteries of Bowieana? Did the man leave provisions for something to be released on his 80th, 90th, or 100th birthdays? I wouldn’t put it past him.

The Ringo book was a disappointment, poorly written and rife with editing errors. I did learn a few things; for instance, did you know that Ringo once had the gall to ask Frank Sinatra to record a song for his wife Maureen’s birthday — and that Sinatra actually did it?

Sinatra does take the piss a little bit — “she married Ringo, and she could have had Paul,” he sings, and then explains that he’s doing this because he was told “she sleeps with Ringo, but she thinks of you.” And using the tune of “The Lady Is a Tramp” seems a bit snarky to begin with. Still — it’s Frank, and he took the time, and that has to count for something.

Author Michael Seth Starr (no relation) does do a fairly good job of covering Ringo’s wasted years, which lasted from roughly 1978 to 1989. He was truly a lost soul during this period, a sad drunk with no purpose in life, and reading about it gave me a new perspective on the man — which again has to count for something.

Great Jones Street I knew only as the title of DeLillo’s book — but when I learned recently that it was an artists colony where Andy Warhol owned a building that Jean-Michel Basquiat lived in, and that according to Wikipedia

According to the New York Daily News, the verb “Jonesing,” a word used to describe an intense craving, originally for a drug, but now extended to everyday use, comes from Great Jones Street, a former junkie hangout.

I decided it was time to read the book. It is here on the desk and being fairly short, will probably be tackled in February.

When the Game Was War was technically a Christmas present, but I forgot to include it in last month’s report. So I am listing it here because accuracy and accountability are important. Can we make that the theme for this year? Can we get some accountability up in this bitch? Can I get an amen?

I picked up The Crow Road because it was referenced in a gag on the second season of Good Omens, where the angel Gabriel (a.k.a. Stewart Turkeyleg, a.k.a. Jon Hamm) decides to arrange all the books in a bookshop alphabetically by the text of the first sentence. The Crow Road begins like this:

It was the day my grandmother exploded.

Which is a hell of an opening salvo, innit?

The Crow Road kept me company throughout the long month of January, which was up and down but landed in a good place, much like the book’s main character, Prentice McHoan. It proved a stalwart and Scottishly charming, if long-winded and sometimes exasperating companion.

Future Self would probably appreciate a quick plot summary here, but it’s too complicated for this late in the post. Look it up.

I don’t regret the time spent but I don’t know that I will pursue any of Mr. Banks’ other books, and TCR — which arrived looking ragged (“very good” my ass) and grew more so in our travels together — will likely go into the free box along with Ringo. Which leaves me at net zero for the month, always a good thing. The rain is abating; time for some fresh air.