Tag Archives: musician

When You Wish Upon a Star

Last Night at Chateau Marmont: A Novel by Lauren Weisberger (Washington Square Press, $15.00, 384 pages)

“You have to be ruthless about your privacy.”

Lights, camera, action!   Lauren Weisberger’s latest novel makes the reader feels like she’s watching a movie.   Devoted wife and nutritionist, Brooke Alter, has supported her talented singer/songwriter husband, Julian, for years as he refines his talents.   Brooke works two jobs and yet still manages to attend most of Julian’s performances at local New York City bars and nightclubs.

All through these formative years, Julian and Brooke manage to keep their relationship healthy and meaningful.   Then, the obvious occurs when Julian’s marginal contract with Sony becomes a ticket to stardom thanks to a photo opportunity with a gorgeous woman.   The story line is foreseeable.   The studious, devoted wife of a dedicated musician must learn to cope with his success and fame all the while trying to keep in tact her own career as a registered dietician.   The paparazzi provide more fodder for Julian’s notoriety with more than a little help from him.   Brooke is thrown into a melee of popping flashbulbs and tabloid lies/half-truths.

Along the way the reader meets the families and the friends of both Julian and Brooke.   Brooke’s BFF, Nola, is a real treasure.   We should be so lucky to have her for a buddy.   A few real-life rock stars and acting celebrities are thrown in to heighten the mood and give a sense of scale to Julian’s newly anointed status as a rock star.

This reviewer had a malingering sense of impending doom for Brooke and Julian’s relationship and Brooke’s career.   Author Weisberger builds enough tension to keep the reader’s attention and foster plenty of sympathy for Brooke’s plight.   No spoiler alert needed.

This is chick lit at its most polished and predictable best.   Why go to the trouble of courting fame and fortune if you can’t enjoy it?

Recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   Last Night at Chateau Marmont was released in trade paperback form on June 14, 2011.

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I Ain’t Living Long Like This

Chinaberry Sidewalks: A Memoir by Rodney Crowell (Knopf; $24.95; 256 pages)

“To be well-loved is to be free of the evil lurking around the next darkened corner.   Every child should know that feeling.”

The country music artist Rodney Crowell is known for his singing and songwriting skills.   His singing voice, often compared to that of Kris Kristofferson (but higher pitched), may leave something to be desired.   But the artist who has written songs like Shame on the Moon, I Ain’t Living Long Like This and (The Way You Burn Me I Should Be) Ashes by Now, has shown himself to be a bright star in this category.   Crowell is also known as being the ex-husband of Rosanne Cash, which has presented other issues, such as coming off second in comparison to her singing, songwriting and writing skills.

It proves to be true again.   For while Chinaberry Sidewalks is interesting in some places, it does not hold the reader’s imagination and interest the way that Rosanne Cash’s brilliantly written memoir Composed does.   Cash displayed a skill for always finding the right interesting words to describe the happenings in her life; and her voice was just as unique as Bob Dylan’s in Chronicles.

Crowell never seems to find his voice or his style here, although he has stated that he felt freed from the strict rules of song writing in putting together – over a decade – this autobiographical account.

With my grandmother and Charlie (the shoe shine man)…  I experienced love as something tangible between myself and another human being.”

This is a tough read because much of it covers the sad scenes of a childhood filled with bickering parents and domestic violence.   No doubt Crowell is being brutally honest, but it is often difficult to wish to read about a childhood described as filled with nothing “but a primal instinct for survival, theirs and mine.”   In one of the hard-to-concentrate on scenes, Crowell’s inebriated mother hits his father whereupon his very drunk dad responds by punching his mother in the face.   The young Crowell intervenes by breaking a Coke bottle over his own head, requiring a trip to the hospital for stitches.   Yes, a few stories like this go a long way.

It must be noted that this memoir contains some near-charming stories of growing up as a boomer child (Crowell was born in August of 1950).   But the reader interested in tales of playing soldier, or cowboys and Indians, etc. will find better written accounts in the memoirs of Bob Greene (When We Get to Surf City).

“…my parents’ deaths were unique to their personalities.”

At the end of Chinaberry Sidewalks, Crowell’s parents have found a sense of normalcy in their lives before they depart the earth.   And love in a marriage that somehow lasted for decades.   It is a comforting message but one that arrives only after a narrative that might have benefited from tighter editing.   Crowell’s narrative never equates to the level of his songwriting skills in this account.

This is not a bad first effort, but the Rodney Crowell that’s found in Cash’s Composed – such as in the classic scene where a nervous young Crowell meets his legendary future father-in-law for the first time – is a far more interesting person than the one found here.

Joseph Arellano  

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   Chinaberry Sidewalks was released on January 18, 2011.  

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