The Fine Wisdom and Perfect Teachings of the Kings of Rock and Roll: A Memoir by Mark Edmundson (Harper Perennial, $14.99, 240 pages)
“Being a Stones lover was about being willing to piss anywhere. And on everything.”
Based on the original AC/DC-based book cover and the 60s-style journalism used by Edmundson early on, it seems that this is going to be a rock memoir in the style of Chuck Klosterman and Rob Sheffield. Fortunately, it is not, as a bit of Klosterman and/or Sheffield goes a long, long way. This is, instead, a true tale of personal growth and what it takes to arrive at a personal philosophy of life. To be specific, Edmundson writes about “the best moments” in his young life, when he worked as a rock roadie, a cab driver, assistant manager of a movie theater, and small college instructor.
As a young man and college graduate in New York City, Edmundson was floundering: “Young people like me want everything, yet… have no idea just what EVERYTHING is….” The streets of the Big Apple wound up being the perfect academy for Edmundson, who was to discover that ambition must rest on the attempt to balance personal glory with compassion for others.
The rock and roll lessons can be discarded, as Edmundson came into contact with mega-bands that were a decade or more past their prime. This is an engaging, yet non-essential, read that may offer younger readers a bit of guidance for the journey that’s still ahead.
Reprinted courtesy of San Francisco Book Review. The Fine Wisdom and Perfect Teachings of the Kings of Rock and Roll was released in trade paper form on May 10, 2011.
Hear No Evil: My Story of Innocence, Music and the Holy Ghost by Matthew Paul Turner
Some people like inside baseball books. Some like inside politics books. This is an inside religion book which starts off as being very entertaining before it bogs down…
Initially, Hear No Evil reminded me of Don’t Follow Me, I’m Lost (October 2009); Richard Rushfield’s truly hilarious tale of his wild and wooly days at the ultra-liberal arts Hampshire College in the 1980s. Don’t Follow Me was reviewed earlier on this site and while it started off a bit too agressively, it calmed down and simply remained funny until its final page.
Unfortunately, once this reader was more than halfway through Hear No Evil it began to remind me of Love Is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield. Sheffield’s real story had to do with his attempt to woo the love of his life via the compilation of just the right music on cassette tapes. It was cute while it lasted, but it all too soon veered sideways with too much talk of peripheral figures. I loved it before I became bored with it. Yes, Hear No Evil is a bit like that.
This one starts off funny as Turner tells us about his desire to be “the Michael Jackson of Christian music.” And there are some great observations in it – if not necessarily true ones – such as the statement that rock bass players have the emotional maturity of fourth-grade girls. But there’s just not enough here about music. Instead we hear talks about The One True God, God’s sovereignty, Calvinism, etc. Turner himself becomes disenchanted with all of this, “I turned into the punk know-it-all son with a religious ax to grind.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been there and done that. My second major in college was in Philosophy and Religion, so I once enjoyed rambling discussions about the wisdom of St. Augustine versus one’s favorite existentialist. But I never thought it would be interesting to write a book about those youthful conversations.
For me, Turner’s latest effort is a miss rather than a hit.
A review copy was provided by WaterBrook Multnomah (WaterBook Press), a division of Random House Books.