Books for Holiday Gifts These books are sure to please!
Trout offers readers takes us on an exciting tour of some of the world’s finest trout-fishing waters - from Appalachia to the Rockies and Pacific Northwest, to the Catskills and on to Patagonia. Creeks, rivers and little- known springs and streams with Tom Roenbauer’s lifetime of stories and Brian Grossenbacher’s wondrous photography. Big-river mysteries, boats, and guides, wading and solitude, flies, and the trout themselves. A magical journey for both experienced and learning—and wannabe--fly fishers. And you won’t need to don your waders!
Tom Rosenbauer was Fly Rod & Reel’s 2011 Angler of the Year. He has hosted fly-fishing shows on TV, and his podcast, “The Orvis Fly-Fishing Guide,” is one of the most popular outdoor titles on Apple. He has worked with the Orvis Company for more than 40 years, and is the author of more than 20 books on fly fishing and tying. Brian Grossenbacher is perhaps the most celebrated contemporary outdoor photographer working today, after 18 years as a renowned fishing guide.
This book is a treasure for any coffee table or book-shelf!
The Philosophy of Modern Song
By Bob Dylan | Illustrated Simon & Schuster 2022, 340 pages
Bob Dylan hits a homerun out of the ball park with this amazing collection of 66 astute, entertaining, good-humored and personalized essays on virtually all aspects of modern popular music. This is no dull academic tone and it also is not the sequel to his 2004 autobiographical book Chronicles Volume One. It is more like a continuation of Dylan’s great Theme Time Radio Hour, the satellite radio show he hosted from 2006 to 2009. This is the Nobel Prize- winning songwriter lighting the fireplace, pulling up a chair, pouring you and himself comforting libations and chatting about the music and musicians he loves and has delved into and learned from, lo, these 80- some years of his remarkable life. The book is brilliantly illustrated with shots of old American record shops, casinos, fairgrounds, movie theatres and record-pressing plants.
Though the focus is on other artists, for Dylan fans like myself, this book is a revelation, as Dylan candidly, if off-handedly, answers a lot of questions we might have about his own ever-evolving mind. For instance, his essay on Edwin Starr’s song “War” lets us in on Dylan’s political opinions on some of the war-starters of the past few decades. And his comments on the value of “Strangers in the Night”, a song which Frank Sinatra himself hated, are touching and provide insight into why Dylan chose to make three consecutive albums of covers of songs associated with Old Blue Eyes and other crooners.
And we get Dylan chatting about The Clash, The Fugs, Johnny Cash, Elvis, The Who, Sam Cooke, Rosemary Clooney, Vic Damone, Roy Orbison, Perry Como and perhaps less well-known artists like rockabilly Jimmy Wages or the authentically “outlaw” Johnny Paycheck (a man who, like Robert Zimmerman, changed his professional name more than once). He gets rather oddly snide about Elvis Costello but in general, Dylan’s remarks are generous if often wistful and sometimes even sorrowful. Stephen Foster and Ricky Nelson each get high praise, well-supported. Sometimes Dylan even changes his attitude towards a song in mid-essay. As though he is just thinking out loud. It’s charming.There are some puzzles and some in-jokes embedded here in the text and photos. Dylan dedicates this book to Doc Pomus. Recognize that name? And just who is that woman holding a well-beaten guitar between Little Richard and Eddie Cochran on the front cover? (Hint, her last name rhymes with Presley.) Have fun trying to find those answers. And you will have fun reading The Philosophy of Modern Song and hunting up recordings of the many great tunes Bob Dylan invites us to recall. A grand book to own or to give! Rock on!
The Passenger and Stella Maris
By Cormac McCarthy Knopf 2022
These two inter-linked novels by Santa Fe based, world- famous author Cormac McCarthy are both challenging and fascinating. Not for the faint-hearted or the impatient but well worth the brave effort involved in reading them.
Bobby Western and his deceased sister Alicia Western, the protagonists of these books, are true desperados. The Passenger begins with a stark scene of Alicia’s frozen, red-sashed corpse with “cold, enameled eyes glinting blue” hanging from a tree in a wintry Wisconsin forest. From there the reader is plunged backwards in time into the first of several of bed-ridden Alicia’s italicized pre-suicide dialogues with her hallucinatory “companion”, The Thalidomide Kid, a crude- but- friendly, flipper-handed dwarf who regales Alicia with corny jokes, bad puns and salacious references to her repressed sexual attraction towards her brother Bobby. The Kid seems to be trying to save Alicia from self-destruction, something Bobby himself fails to do. After ten pages of this bizarre psycho-chatter, the italics cease and in chapter two we seem to be engaged in a less- surreal plot line set a decade later in 1980, as Bobby Western, a former physics student and race- car driver now employed as a salvage diver (who, like Alicia’s imaginary Thalidomide Kid, sports flippers) off the MIssissippi coast, plunges into the mystery of how an apparently undamaged private passenger plane came to lie in deep water with nine dead passengers and crew members aboard but one unnamed passenger from the flight manifest missing.
In fact, that mystery- plot line is more or less a red herring, as we learn that the real mystery here involves just what kind of a life Bobby Western is living, and why. Agents—apparently of The Government—begin harassing and persecuting Bobby, though it is unclear why. Bobby suspects this has to do with his (and Alicia’s) late father’s involvement in the creation of The Bomb which destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki and still our world to this day.
The narrative pauses at several points while Bobby and his acquaintances mull over matters of advanced mathematics, physics and philosophy which this reader, for one, found both mind-boggling and intriguing. The late Alicia was herself a mathematical genius. (Quarks and string theory, anyone?)
The book’s settings, besides Alicia’s bedroom, include New Orleans, Tennessee and an island off the coast of Spain where Bobby meets and chats with odd ball pals.
The Passenger is one long, convoluted “strange trip”. Stella Maris, the second novel in this series, consists entirely of a psychiatrist’s interviews with the hallucinating and pre-suicidal Alicia Western. And much more about advanced math.
Cormac McCarthy is a frustrating but fascinating writer. I recommend you give The Passenger and Stella Maris a go yourself. Or buy it for a friend and have a fun time chatting about the read.