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- June 19, 1995
- Vol. 43
- No. 24
Picks and Pans: Pages
Books for Folks with Different Strokes
As a rock-and-roll photographer, Goldsmith knows—in the words of one of her most famous subjects—that you can't always get what you want. But she tries—all the time—unabashedly mixing the personal with the professional. What you just might find in her sad, funny, frank and graphically bracing picture autobiography, is that she gets what she needs. Which is to connect with something core in her subjects: ego, Eros or the conviction that rock is not just ear candy (unless you're Rick James, who in one memorable, libidinous photo turns his blonde girlfriend's lobe into literally that.)
Need and want are fundamental themes in rock and in Goldsmith's book. What she wants from many of the stars she encounters is friendship, sometimes more. Her late '70s romance with Bruce Springsteen and especially its ignominious end—when the singer hauled her up onstage, then shoved her away, shouting, "This is my ex-girlfriend"—is notorious.
Goldsmith, 47, tells the stories of her affairs with Springsteen, Sting, David Byrne and a couple of lesser-knowns in vivid, condensed paragraphs that are usually more coolly self-critical than self-justifying. Confessing that Byrne never called her again after she once subjected him to a fit of jealous screaming, she writes, "I've learned that yelling at someone will never make them want you to be a part of their life."
Not stop-the-presses stuff, but Goldsmith's honesty about herself and others accumulates force. Her quietly compelling and often beautifully lit photographs combine with her text to create a portrait of a child of divorce, growing up in Detroit and Miami, hungry for love, moved by music, intensely driven and as resourceful and stubbornly independent as she is needy. An exhibit of Goldsmith's work, currently on view at Manhattan's International Center of Photography, will travel later this summer to Washington and Atlanta. (Rizzoli, $50)
by Bill McCoy
Call it natal attraction. Two years ago, the author fell head over heels in love with a "purplish-red slime-covered beauty queen" who, once cleaned up and swaddled, was thereafter known as Amanda.
In Father's Day, McCoy, a senior editor at Parents magazine, chronicles the trials and triumphs of his debut as a daddy. "My own task as a braggart," he writes, "has been simplified by the fact that Amanda provides a regular supply of top-notch material. This was particularly true in her first year, when she started sleeping through the night almost right off the bat and took to nursing effortlessly while being considerate enough to wean herself within days of the appearance of her first tooth."
McCoy's prose doesn't push past workmanlike, and he apologizes more than he should for expressing ordinary sentiments. But he never lapses into the noisome self-congratulation of Bob Greene's Good Morning, Merry Sunshine. And he writes with such warmth and openheartedness about Amanda and his hopes for her that it's hard not to be touched. Father's Day will have dads—and moms—smiling and muttering, "Yeah, Bill. Me too." (Times Books, $20)
by James Finn Garner
Who knew that Hans Christian Andersen needed sensitivity training? Or that the Brothers Grimm were sexist and classist? Sad but true, according to Garner, the Chicago humorist who follows his Politically Correct Bedtime Stories—published in 1994 and still entrenched on best-seller lists—with this slim volume of eight more wryly sanitized fairy tales.
Garner fashions a warped world where gluttons are "food-centered," zombies are "differently-dead" and a mantis "was at one time a praying mantis but had been prohibited from such practices by court order." Garner updates the language in classics like Hansel and Gretel ("Deep in a forested bioregion") and also destereotypes familiar characters such as the Ant (a "type-A personality" who develops a peptic ulcer) and the Grasshopper (studies hatha yoga and leads a "leisure-centric lifestyle").
Garner, a brand-new father—his son Liam was born in March—takes an irresistible premise and delivers some sharp satire. Let's just hope that when Liam is ready for a bedtime story, he can handle The Little Mer-Person. (MacMillan, $9.95)
by William Wharton
Novelist and painter Wharton was a summering in New Jersey with his wife and son in 1988 when he heard that his oldest daughter, Kate, her husband and their two babies had been killed in an automobile accident. Ever After is the absorbing memorial he leaves to these four bright young lives.
Kate, 36, was a first-grade teacher in Germany, a single mother recovering from an unhappy marriage when she met Bert, a fellow teacher who brought her new love and happiness. They were visiting Oregon, where Bert's mother lived. Thick smoke from field burning—a controversial method of clearing fields—had drifted over the highway, blinding drivers and causing a huge pile-up. Their VW van was rear-ended, and it instantly caught fire. In capturing the amber light, the sounds of the vehicles colliding, Wharton (Birdy) paints a memorable picture of death and follows it with indelible images of a family thrown into a tailspin of grief.
In an ensuing legal crusade against field burning, Wharton finds himself pitted against judges and attorneys who push him toward a quick settlement instead of the desired publicity of a jury trial. As he painfully wrestles with a sense of obligation to Kate and her family, Wharton discovers a spiritual side of life that consoles him. "Life," he learns, "goes on...longer than most of us permit ourselves to believe."
A happy ending may be hard to find in Ever After, but certainly not the grace and dignity that Wharton brings to the story of his family's life and the peace he has found to continue his own. (Newmarket, $22.95)
>BOGIE, BIRDIE, PAR
THE U.S. OPEN (THE FINAL ROUND WILL take place on Father's Day) and the British Open in July are the only two golf events worth skipping 18 holes of your own to catch on TV Those titles actually have value in a sport that rewards mediocrity; in 1994,154 PGA pros earned more than $100,000 in prize money (plus additional loot for wearing cheesy shirts and visors with corporate logos). What are these guys like?
Pretty vapid, according to John Feinstein's A Good Walk Spoiled'(Little, Brown, $23.95), which chronicles the 1993-94 season. Outside of illness to themselves or loved ones, most pros seem to be clueless about life beyond the country-club gate. Feinstein, author of the best-seller A Season on the Brink, raises—but then drops—intriguing issues. Was Fred Couples blame-free in his nasty divorce? Why can't Greg Norman keep a caddy? How does ever-smiling Tom Kite's "mean streak" manifest itself? Why are many of the tour's elite proud to be Rush Limbaugh "ditto-heads"? With protagonists as charismatic as a ball marker, this book is for fans of Golf Channel reruns.
Fans of golf itself will prefer David Owen's My Usual Game (Villard, $23). This collection of essays from The New Yorker I writer touches on the pro game but dwells on Mittyesque tales of golf school: playing in a pro-am; visiting courses both fabled and obscure, and surviving all-male, golf-till-you-drop vacations. Owen's droll asides are as memorable as a chip-in birdie: Irish dishes tend to be "made from parts of things that pickier eaters would throw away." At Augusta National, home of the Masters, the antebellum members "look as though they are awaiting word of the outcome of the Civil War." Passing the topless bars and garish eateries of blue-collar golf mecca Myrtle Beach, S.C., "I got an inkling of what the world would be like if wives did not exist."
Rarer than a readable nonfiction golf book is a readable golf novel. Steven Pressfield's The Legend of Bagger Vance (Morrow, $20) invents a 1931 match between real stars Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen and shell-shocked WWI vet Ran Junah. Caddying for Junah is Bagger Vance, a black giant nobler than Morgan Freeman, wiser than Yoda—and possessed of more past lives than Shirley MacLaine. Despite a heavy dose of time-travel déjà vu-doo and New Age mysticism, this tale is quirky but satisfying.
- Eric Levin,
- Joanne Kaufman,
- Alex Tresniowski,
- Thomas Curwen,
- Tony Chiu.
January 31, 2015
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