In 1991, Nirvana's Nevermind was released to glowing reviews and plenty of mainstream radio play, jumping to the number one spot on Billboard's album list. After a great Pixies show at the House of Blues in Boston a few weeks ago, I got thinking about how influential the Pixies were to bands like Nirvana, Radiohead, and The Strokes - but who influenced them? The best I could come up with was some vague references to 70s-era punk, but I knew there must be more to it. To fill in the gaps, I picked up a copy of Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991 by Michael Azerrad. Now that I've been schooled in what it truly means to be "
Few authors deftly create characters as deeply human and mesmerizingly real as Haruki Murakami. Whether sketching biographies of quake victims in After the Quake, or capturing the derailment of a man's life in Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, he is an undisputed master of his craft. In his latest collection of short stories, Men Without Women, Murakami transports us into the lives of lonely men suffering heartbreak and self-inflicted isolation. So genuine are these characters and their problems that we forget they are not long-lost uncles we have yet to meet. While all eight stories are beautifully poignant, two are stand-outs. In "Scheherazade," Murakami paints an unpredictably tender relationship between a man under house arrest (readers assume) and his appointed caretaker.
We live in exciting times. Ten years since the last J.R.R. Tolkien book was released (Children of Hurin), fans finally can get their hands on the latest installment: Beren and Lúthien, a chronological version of a love story that Tolkien peppers throughout some of his other works. For the non-Tolkien fans reading this, let me catch you up: J.R.R. Tolkien is dead (as of 1973). His son, Christopher Tolkien, acting as the world's foremost Tolkien scholar, has studied and compiled various drafts his father left. The 12-volume History of Middle-earth (known as "HOME" to fans) is perhaps the best example of this. Beren and Lúthien are two halves of a legendary love story and part of the world's lore. But
If you devoured a lot of pop culture over the last decade, you might wonder what Chuck Klosterman's latest volume, Chuck Klosterman X: A Highly Specific, Defiantly Incomplete History of the Early 21st Century, has to offer. My answer to this: perspective. In this collection of 38 essays culled from his work in publications like Esquire and Grantland, Klosterman analyzes various facets of pop culture ranging from zombies to Miley Cyrus, from Mountain Dew to Lou Reed. He explains, "Consumed in aggregate, this omnibus equates to a short book about music, a short book about sports, and a short book about everything else that could possibly exist." Disconnected as these subjects may seem, they are all filtered through Klosterman's unique voice. He's the anti-critic.
What happens when a 7.5'-tall black basketball player and budding political activist meets a white Midwestern coach 37 years his senior in racially-charged 1967? For Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Coach John Wooden, this odd couple relationship becomes a memorable mentorship turned friendship. Set largely during his college years at UCLA, Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50-Year Friendship On and Off the Court, by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, is a touching tribute to Kareem's friendship with "Coach." I'll get this out of the way early: with noted exceptions for hiking and a burgeoning interest in rock climbing, my sports knowledge is limited. I can't throw a ball or dribble. I understand what a layup is conceptually but would be hard-pressed to make one. My first and only