I listen to the music with no fear…

your pretty face

This book has been on my shelf for years, but jumped up to the top of the heap with the unexpected passing of David Bowie at the start of this year. That period, musically speaking, has always been pretty interesting. It saw the birth of lots of musical movements. But it’s one I didn’t know a whole lot about aside from the explosion of awesome sounds that came from it.

The book covers the early careers of Bowie, Pop and Reed starting in the late sixties and their varying associations with Andy Warhol’s factory members and follows each man through the end of the 1970s. Each man had his own unique sound and his own unique demons that followed him through the decade.

I really wanted to like this book more than I did. It wasn’t a bad book by any means. But my interest in the subject matter was much higher than my interest in this book. Perhaps it was Thompson’s writing, which often comes off like so many pretentious music snobs. Maybe, with regard to my musical heroes, I don’t like seeing how the sausage is made. Perhaps I’d just prefer to believe that Bowie magically plucked Space Oddity out of the aether rather than find out it was a gimmick song written after the first moon walk. Regardless, if I were to recommend a memoir from this era, I’d recommend Just Kids by Patti Smith first.

Nothing can save you. Justice is Lost. Justice is Raped. Justice is Gone.

lost girls cover

 

If a possibly unhealthy interest in true crime has taught me anything, it’s that the law does not function equally for all members of society. Many of the most prolific and longest working serial killers were those that preyed on prostitutes. The media don’t consider these victims compelling news, and the police often feel these women are at least partially to blame for their fates and put their cases on the back burner. In the 21st century, sites like craigslist and backpage have added even more anonymity to the process of connecting with a sex worker. All of these ingredients have combined to aid a killer in Long Island who has killed at least 4 and as many as 10 women and who is still at large as of today.

Lost Girls narrows its focus to 5 of these young women: Maureen Brainard-Barnes, Amber Lynn Costello, Megan Waterman, Melissa Barthelemy and Shannan Gilbert. It is Shannan, who placed a frantic 911 call before running off screaming into the night that brings attention and the subsequent discovery of the bodies of the other four girls into the news. The book begins by giving a brief outline of the short and difficult lives of the girls. Then Kolker covers the days leading up to their disappearances, the discovery of their bodies and the ensuing case which seems to have uncovered some suspicious characters, but no strong leads. Also complicating this is the fact that the community of Oak Beach, where the bodies were found, is peopled by well-off, private people that would like nothing more than this entire mess to go away.

This book is well written and researched but the subject matter is bleak. The title tells you going in the case is unsolved. I found it difficult reading about the girls childhoods filled with poverty and abuse knowing that there would be no justice in the end for them. If you follow this read up with the Making a Murderer and the Paradise Lost documentaries, you can solidify your disillusionment with the American Judicial System.

Lost Girls

I still wouldn’t have married him, but I get it.

american wife

 

My actual rating is somewhere between 3 and 4 stars. Sometimes I really liked this book and I really liked the main character, Alice. Other times, mostly toward the end, I wanted to yell “We got it! Fame is hard!” I added this book after reading that Alice was inspired by Laura Bush. Obviously I’m not the first person to look at this quiet, thoughtful, former librarian wind up with George W. Bush of all people. American Wife closely mirrors the events of the former first lady’s life from childhood until her husband’s second term in office. Most of her decisions in adulthood, revolve around a tragic accident during her teen years, in which a boy she was enamored with was killed.

I have to say I often found this book uncomfortable to read. Mainly because I found myself relating to the character of Alice quite a lot. So even when she was making decisions that I wouldn’t necessarily have made, I understood them. Needless to say this was rather jarring for a dyed-in-the-wool liberal to find herself relating to a character’s decision to marry the literary incarnation of GWB. Toward the end of book, which details their years in the White House, I found Alice’s ruminations on fame to be a little tedious. I only need to be told so many times how few people you can really trust and how people think they own you because you are famous. I got it. Otherwise, I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who’s willing to accept that people with other political views are just people and not the actual devil.