‘Just Kids’ by Patti Smith

‘Just Kids’ by Patti Smith is a difficult book to describe or characterise. It is an autobiography through the lens of a sometimes brilliant and sometimes hurtful relationship.

I could start by describing it as raw since the tale it tells is certainly a raw one. I could call it unadorned since the language is simple and unadorned. At the same time it is romantic since it is above all dedicated to Smith’s love for Robert Mapplethorpe. We could also add honest since Smith does not gild the lily and honestly tells of stealing and cheating.

Smith quickly moves through her childhood and only really gets into detail when she tells of falling pregnant, being dismissed from teacher’s college and giving up the child for adoption at the age of nineteen. Soon after she leaves New Jersey for New York, already seeking the life of an artist and immediately runs into Mapplethorpe who shows her a place to sleep and then disappears before resurfacing when they meet for the second time at the bookshop Brentano’s.

What follows is a love story, a love of the artistic life, of New York, of the times and the artists that inhabited it but most of all a love of Mapplethorpe that changed but did not decrease when they stopped as lovers and he realised his homosexuality. Nor did it seem to change as both climbed the ladder of fame and success.

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K.D. Lang ‘Live in London’ on Blu-Ray

Let’s start with the technical aspects of this recording.This Blu-Ray was recorded by the BBC for high definition broadcast and you can tell. It is for recordings like this that I spent so much time and money getting my home theatre just right. The audio is a DTS Master Audio 16 bit/48khz 5.1 mix. The  quality is superb, the balance across all 5 channels is excellent and the sound stage is massive. There is a slight echo in the vocal that perfectly suits the look of the room.The picture is incredibly clear high definition captured in a well lit studio with great camera work throughout. The BBC should be proud of the job they did on this Blu-Ray.K.D. Lang’s performance in this small venue is remarkable, stellar, superb. She is enjoying herself here, with her usual band at the time backed by an orchestra courtesy of the BBC. There is not a single song that does not show off her remarkable voice and stage presence. The BBC concert Orchestra add a lush, full feel to most of the tracks and seem to fade into the background in others.Lang walks the stage, at times her eyes closed as she reaches for that perfect pitch and tone at others her smile is so wide that it threatens to split her face. Here is a true vocal talent, a true performer doing what she loves.

Even if you don’t love K.D. Lang you may well enjoy this just for the quality. I can imagine high end home theatre stores owning a copy just for demonstration purposes.

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Book Review – “The Kragen” by Jack Vance

I love reading science fiction but tend to stick to a few authors. Fortunately I have an older brother who not only spreads me to further fields but reminds me of old pastures that still hold great value.

The Kragen certainly did that. I’ve read and enjoyed Jack Vance before but had read neither this novella or the novel “Blue World” that it was later expanded into. Thank you, Graeme, for reminding me of Vance’s quality. I’ll now have to ferret out some further gems.

The Kragen was out of print for many years until this recent (2007) edition from the small Subterranean Press, who seem to produce some quality volumes.

The Kragen is set on a world entirely without land, where the people feed King Kragen to keep him happy and content to shield them from the smaller Kragen. From there Vance explores a number of interesting themes. The world is certainly a believable one.

I found it well written, readable, well paced and enjoyable. A marvelous, light read, everything I want from a novella.

Book Review – “D.A.” by Connie Willis

This slim volume is an excellent read for the young adult. It reminds me strongly of Henlein’s ‘juvenilia’.

Theodora Baumgartner is a teenager who suddenly finds herself an unwilling space cadet and this short story unfolds from there. It rolls along at a good pace and I found myself eating it up in a single sitting. I’m certainly going to read a little more of Willis’s work after this.

Since this was a birthday gift I’m not going to complain about a single short story in a hardcover edition.