Periodically (my guess is once a month) we’ll all share a few words about what self-directed reading we’re doing at the moment. Mostly I want us to describe what the book is about (without any spoilers) in a few sentences and then give everybody a sense of what you’re getting out of the book so far. A nice meaty paragraph (or three, if you’re as long-winded as me) should suffice.
By way of example, here’s what I’m reading right now:
- Lost Highway: Journeys and Arrivals of American Musicians by Peter Guralnick
Guralnick is one of the preeminent music writers in America today. His area of focus is Blues, R&B, traditional country, and early rock-and-roll music — what is sometimes collectively called American roots music. This book is basically a series of profiles of individual musicians, all of whom are (or were at the time the book was written) purveyors of one brand of roots music or another. As much as anything else, it’s a consideration of how these different musical (and cultural) tributaries have fed each other, and it’s particularly interested in the ways race, class, and geography have all played into the developmental mish-mash of the music.
This book is capturing my imagination because I’m interested these days in how/why people devote themselves to a creative life and what kinds of sacrifices they have to make in order to do that. I’m about halfway through the book, and it’s interesting to note that Guralnick hasn’t profiled one musician who a reasonable (“reasonable”) person might classify as “normal.” Guralnick points out that some of that has to do with the lifestyle itself — the rigors of touring, waking up in a new town 150 or 200 nights a year, pose considerable challenges to maintaining connections in the “real world” where most people live. But Guralnick also suggests that most if not all of these guys (they’re all men) wouldn’t have it any other way. They really can’t exist comfortably in a more settled, conventional life.
I also like how Guralnick turned his obsession with roots music into his own creative vocation: writing is an act of connection, and it has allowed Guralnick to connect more deeply and intimately with the music and musicians he fell in love with as a teenager. (Plus: I met him at a conference in April and he was a really nice guy. We talked about baseball and Bob Dylan. At one point, he got up from his chair and unabashedly demonstrated the proper mechanics of hitting a baseball for me. It was cool. Plus there was barbecue involved.)
Okay. Now it’s your turn. The comments section awaits!