LIZ VAN PAY

the ramblings of a music journalist and nearly-published author.

I’ll be a reader ’til the day I die.

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Beyond music, I have held a lifelong interest and love for books. From when I was a child and my mother would bring me to the library to fill a backpack full of picture books to when I go to the library or bookstore on my own as an adult, I have held a lifelong love for books and for reading. Since I’ve been out of school, all of my reading has been for pleasure, and recently I have been making lists of books I’ve spent time reading. Some are by authors I’ve always enjoyed, while others I picked up on random trips to the local bookstore. Each holds its’ own story, and below you will find those stories, as well as my reactions. The only genre I don’t really subscribe to is the fantasy genre, but otherwise I am open to anything and everything. Autobiographical, fiction, non-fiction – books still fascinate me.

The Heroin Diaries – Nikki Sixx

In one of the most unique memoirs of addiction ever published, Mötley Crüe’s Nikki Sixx shares mesmerizing diary entries nikkisixxheroindiariesfrom the year he spiraled out of control in a haze of heroin and cocaine, presented alongside riveting commentary from people who were there at the time, and from Nikki himself.

When Mötley Crüe was at the height of its fame, there wasn’t any drug Nikki Sixx wouldn’t do. He spent days — sometimes alone, sometimes with other addicts, friends, and lovers — in a coke and heroin-fueled daze. The highs were high, and Nikki’s journal entries reveal some euphoria and joy. But the lows were lower, often ending with Nikki in his closet, surrounded by drug paraphernalia and wrapped in paranoid delusions.

Here, Nikki shares those diary entries — some poetic, some scatterbrained, some bizarre — and reflects on that time. Joining him are Tommy Lee, Vince Neil, Mick Mars, Slash, Rick Nielsen, Bob Rock, and a host of ex-managers, ex-lovers, and more.

Brutally honest, utterly riveting, and shockingly moving, The Heroin Diaries follows Nikki during the year he plunged to rock bottom — and his courageous decision to pick himself up and start living again.

I have read this book cover to cover more than twice. Not only because I’m a big fan of Motley Crue, but because reading their book The Dirt introduced me to, and interested me in, exactly what was going on in the heads of Motley’s members in the midst of their rise to being a household name. The individual who shone beyond anyone else in the group was Nikki, and when I heard of the release of The Heroin Diaries, I was excited almost instantly. The first copy I read was a copy from the local library, falling apart from constantly being checked out and handled, the full-color pages difficult to turn as they were coming out of the binding in chunks. I read the book twice in about a week’s time. It isn’t only a book about Nikki Sixx, but it really draws you into his life at the time of everything happening all at once, and what that and the drugs did to him emotionally and physically. Not only does it tell his story, but it is an uplifting look into how one man turned his life around. Whether or not he is Nikki Sixx, this book should be a staple of every music fan’s bookshelf.

Its’ accompanying soundtrack by Sixx’s side project Sixx:AM is a great compliment. The album was written after each member of the band read the book, and each of its’ tracks serve as a representation of a piece of the book’s story. This is something incredibly special about the Heroin Diaries project, and not something that should be ignored.

High Voltage Tattoo – Kat Von D
katvond3High Voltage Tattoo is a graphic perspective on today’s global tattoo culture by Kat Von D, star of The Learning Channel’s L.A. Ink and one of the most talented and popular artists working today. Designed in a style that is reminiscent of a handmade Gothic journal with its red padded cover, ornate typography, and parchmentlike pages, it throws the door wide open to tattooing culture in the way only an insider like Kat can.

High Voltage Tattoo traces Kat’s career as an artist, from early childhood influences to recent work, along with examples of what inspires her, information about the show and her shop, her sketches, and personal tattoos. The book goes deep into tattoo process and culture: readers can see up close the pigments, the tools, and the making of complex, even collaborative, tattoos.

With a foreword by Mötley Crüe’s Nikki Sixx, the book features images and stories about celebrities, rockers, pro skaters, and everyday citizens, including Slayer’s Kerry King, Anthrax’s Scott Ian, Margaret Cho, Jackass’ Bam Margera, David Letterman, and many others. It profiles and showcases the work of artists Kat has selected from all over the world, her interviews with people who have compelling tattoos and stories, and amazing images of extraordinary tattoo work. Numerous portfolios throughout the book showcase a range of relevant subjects, from the black and gray portrait work for which Kat is famous to a popular tattoo theme, such as the rose or biblical images. There is a knockout ten-page full-body spread of Kat—clad in a yellow bikini and seven-inch, rhinestone-studded red stilettos—that catalogs in detail all her personal tattoos on her front, back, left, and right sides—even her hands and head.

I know, I know – having Kat Von D’s book directly after Nikki Sixx’s on this list looks strange, but I swear it happened by accident. By no means a huge fan of Kat Von D, I picked up the book after flipping through a copy at a local bookstore and seeing that it wasn’t only an autobiography. The book has striking images and stories of some of the many tattoos Kat has done throughout her career, as well as autobiographical elements and insight into the world of tattooing. Many of the photos and stories are of and about her celebrity clients, but I was impressed by just how much it explained about the different varieties of tattooing Kat has experience with, as well as the range of people she’s tattooed. An all-around good and easy read, High Voltage Tattoo would be a great coffee table addition for any tattoo enthusiast. I brought it all full circle by attending one of her book signings and getting my copy signed, shaking the hand of not only Kat, but Hannah Atchison as well. It was the first and only book signing I’ve ever attended, and now when I think of the book, I can think of that as well.

Pygmy – Chuck Palahniuk
Palahniuk’s 10th novel (after Snuff) is a potent if cartoonish cultural satire that succeeds despite its stridently confounding pygmyprose. A gang of adolescent terrorists trained by an unspecified totalitarian state (the boys and girls are guided by quotations attributed to Marx, Hitler, Augusto Pinochet, Idi Amin, etc.) infiltrate America as foreign exchange students. Their mission: to bring the nation to its knees through Operation Havoc, an act of mass destruction disguised as a science project. Narrated by skinny 13-year-old Pgymy, the propulsive plot deconstructs American fixtures, among them church (religion propaganda distribution outlet), spelling bees (forced battle to list English alphabet letters) and TV news reporters (Horde scavenger feast at overflowing anus of world history), before moving on to a Columbine-like shooting spree by a closeted kid who has fallen in love with the teenage terrorist who raped him in a shopping mall bathroom. Decoding Palahniuk’s characteristically scathing observations is a challenge, as Pygmy’s narrative voice is unbound by rules of grammar or structure (a typical sentence: Host father mount altar so stance beside bin empty of water), but perseverance is its own perverse reward in this singular, comic accomplishment.

The first thing I will say about Pygmy is that the storytelling itself takes some getting used to. The book is written from the point of view of an adolescent, and seems more like literary morse code than the simple reading of most of Palahniuk’s books. It took me a long while to be able to really get into it, and it was definitely not a book I could read all in one sitting. The story itself was intriguing and quite unlike most of Palahniuk’s past work, which I found interesting in and of itself. Going through the exploration of Pygmy in his new surroundings to the events leading up to the culmination of Operation Havoc, once the story gained its’ flow it didn’t let it go for a moment.

Downtown Owl – Chuck Klosterman
downtown_owl.largeKlosterman, who has made a name for himself as an idiosyncratic pop-cultural commentator on rock music and sports, proves just as entertaining in his first novel. In or on the edge of nondescript Owl, North Dakota, live laid-back high-school football player Mitch Hrlicka, who stands out from his peers by being exceedingly normal; teacher Julia Rabia, who has fallen in love with buffalo farmer and Rolling Stones–exclusivist Vance Druid; and old Horace Jones, who mourns his wife and has a few painful secrets. Klosterman doesn’t follow them in a conventional narrative manner. Gifted with a superb ear for dialogue, a kind of perfect pitch for the way ordinary people talk, Klosterman is also capable of fine word-portraits of the three principals and the folks orbiting them in a town whose residents have nicknames like Vanna White, Bull Calf, Grendel, and Little Stevie Horse ’n’ Phone, and time exists on its own odd terms rather than those of the novel’s setting, the 1980s. Despite their eccentricities, or maybe because of them, one believes in these people and their often improbable yet always credible stories. Think of this as a literary relative of the movies Fargo and American Graffiti, sans the latter’s cruising Main Street and warm weather, with a poignant and tragic edge to it, conferred by a paralyzing and deadly blizzard in February 1984.

Klosterman has been hit and miss for me in the books I’ve read. While I loved Killing Myself to Live and Fargo Rock City, IV and Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs weren’t my style by a long shot. With Downtown Owl, I was taking a risk. Weaving the stories of three different individuals in the small town of Owl, North Dakota, Downtown Owl is intriguing from its’ first page turns. Following Julia, Horace, and Mitch, each of the three stories comes together simply, advancing the stories of the others without even meaning to. An easy and quick read, I would definitely recommend it – not only because Klosterman’s books have been featured on the shelves of Urban Outfitters next to Tucker Max. Downtown Owl would make a great first book for those who may not be too interested in Klosterman’s past work, and for those who are looking for a new favorite author. Chuck Klosterman is an amazing storyteller, and proves it beyond a shadow of a doubt with Downtown Owl.

Each of these books tells a different story. Whether they be autobiographies or fiction, I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent reading each and every one of these titles. While my reviews may be flawed due to the time and the nature of my writing after a certain time of night, I would suggest giving them a second look the next time you’re at Barnes and Noble with no idea what to pick up!

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One Response

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  1. I think Kat is the biggest tattoo artist ever. Her tattoos are just amazing. I love to watch LA ink with her.

    tattoos

    March 6, 2010 at 6:01 am


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