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Richards vs. Mantle

October 25, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Tough choice. Which book do I read? The Keith Richards autobiography Life that comes out tomorrow or Jane Leavy’s biography The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood that came out two weeks ago? Two of my heroes, though I fell for Mick earlier and he therefore has a larger claim on my heart. Yet he has gotten less interesting to me as the years have gone by, whatever thrills he gave me in my childhood, while my awe of Keith continues to grow.

I just read Michiko Katutani’s enthusiastic review of Life, to appear in tomorrow’s NYT, and it’s enough to make me want to download it on my Kindle tonight.

But “Life” — which was written with the veteran journalist James Fox — is way more than a revealing showbiz memoir. It is also a high-def, high-velocity portrait of the era when rock ’n’ roll came of age, a raw report from deep inside the counterculture maelstrom of how that music swept like a tsunami over Britain and the United States. It’s an eye-opening all-nighter in the studio with a master craftsman disclosing the alchemical secrets of his art. And it’s the intimate and moving story of one man’s long strange trip over the decades, told in dead-on, visceral prose without any of the pretense, caution or self-consciousness that usually attend great artists sitting for their self-portraits.

The book isn’t available for download until tomorrow, so I can’t succumb to temptation just yet, and by tomorrow I’ll recognize that I don’t really want to read a 564-page book about his life just now, however riveting. For that matter, I don’t know that I’m ready to tackle a 456-page bio of Mantle either. (See Keith Olbermann’s review in the NYT Sunday book review a week ago.)

What I think I’ll do is download the Kindle sample of each and let that suffice. By the way, Amazon’s price for the Mantle book is $11.99. Its price for the Kindle edition? $12.99. That’s a shock.

One other Kindle dilemma. Two months ago I wrote about Ian Frazier’s upcoming book Travels in Siberia, which came out two weeks ago. I haven’t bought it yet. I’ve been thinking of downloading the Kindle version, but if I do, how will Frazier sign it at his Seattle appearance this Sunday? (He will be at the Seattle Public Library.) Do I have him sign a piece of paper then tape it to my Kindle or iPad? Maybe I could scan the paper, make a pdf file, and download it onto them. Or I could just bring along my copies of Great Plains, Family, and On the Rez for him to sign.

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