Sex Pistols: Poison in the Machine is a new biography of an old story, which puts it at no particular advantage: as happy as Pistols fans might be to read multiple iterations of the same brief narrative, their choices are virtually limitless. Steve Jones’ autobiography, released this past November, certainly makes for stiff competition, and it’s just one of the many.
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The fabled realism of Maria Gripe’s The Glassblower’s Children (originally published in Sweden in 1964) offers a tale at once strange and all too familiar. The Swedish author made a living writing children’s novels that borrowed heavily from the fantastic lore of Nordic myth; stories which detailed the striking dynamism and power of Norse gods and the lessons learned by mere mortals.
Her stories were often deceptively plaintive. They hid a wealth of darker truths which brewed just beneath the crust of her mannered language.
“Well, where could they come from but someplace else?” asks Rickie Lee Jones, responding to a question about the derivation of her songs on the occasions that they appear to arrive fully formed, as a message delivered from the ether. “When they come whole, it makes it feel like it’s somebody else giving me the work. But I don’t know. There are so many answers… When I write stuff, I always go, ‘Thank you so much.’ So if I answer truthfully, I feel like I’m talking to somebody else. Whether or not it’s my heart that is setting me free or somebody else’s, it feels like there’s somebody else to say thank you [to] for what happens.”
Before he became the superstar talk show host of The Daily Show, Trevor Noah was working the comedy circuits in the US, building up his resume as one of comedy’s most incisive and curious contenders. Incisive because his brand of comedy explores racial topics from an insider’s deeply personal point of view, and curious because, as a South African who lived during apartheid—an experience of which much of his comedy is based on— he was unlike any other up-and-coming stand-up comic out there.
When would-be folksinger Rachel Boucher is raped and impregnated by former high school crush Jason de Klerk, the ensuing custody battle tears apart Athens, Ohio. That the aimless, unemployed de Klerk would have any parental rights at all is only part of what puzzles in Rachel’s Blue, Zakes Mda’s deeply peculiar novel.
Rachel, 23, is a would-be folksinger and nascent activist who lives with her grandmother, Nana Moira.The “Blue” of the title refers to the Amish ragdoll Rachel remains oddly attached to:
When everyone was gone, Blue was the one to have stayed. There was Nana Moira, of course, but she didn’t count that much. Blue, on the other hand, was always with Rachel. She was not apt to die in a war or disappear in a fog of drugs.