The Humorless Ladies of Border Control

posted by: September 29, 2016 - 12:00pm

Cover art for The Humorless Ladies of Border ControlYou don’t have to delve particularly deeply into musician Franz Nicolay’s solo discography before you start to notice a couple of trends. First, Nicolay likes telling stories, and he’s good at telling them. Second, he has a deep and abiding passion for words. The lyrics of the eponymous track of 2012’s “Do the Struggle” (one of the songs that he references early in The Humorless Ladies of Border Control: Touring the Punk Underground from Belgrade to Ulaanbaatar) reads more like a Kerouacian beat poem than a folk-punk song. By the same token, the finished product of The Humorless Ladies of Border Control: Touring the Punk Underground from Belgrade to Ulaanbaatar can hardly be described as predictable.

 

More of a travel memoir than anything else, Nicolay takes great pains to avoid talking about his own music in the book, even going so far as to proclaim early on: “I’ll describe [the shows] once, then you can mentally copy and paste this into the hole I gloss over toward the end of each day.” Instead, he delivers exactly what the title of the book promises, a tour of the punk underground. There’s so little narcissism in this book that it could have just as easily been written by one of the oft-referenced communist revolutionaries rather than a Brooklyn-based songwriter. Throughout the book, Nicolay’s focus is squarely on the countryside, the cities and the people of Eastern Europe. Just as often as he references himself, he also shares the spotlight with his travelling companions and famous authors — from his ethnomusicologist/wife Maria to Dostoyevsky to the Marquis de Custine, a 19th-century French aristocrat who seems particularly close to Nicolay’s heart.

 

But amidst the (surprising) conversations with young Russian and Ukrainian punks about underground American punk bands like RVIVR or Bridge and Tunnel, and the monotonous nightly shows in unfinished basements, Nicolay and his wife find themselves passing back through Ukraine only months after Vladimir Putin’s invasion and occupation. What follows are not only some of the most touching first-hand accounts of the effects the occupation had on the people of Ukraine, but also some incredibly moving moments of self-discovery for Nicolay himself. This book doesn’t so much progress slowly as it takes its time getting to its destination, and the reader is never left wishing Nicolay would pick up the pace; he’s too good of a storyteller for that. Like his music, The Humorless Ladies of Border Control ultimately draws its strength from Nicolay’s words and rhythm. Evenstanding on their own merits, the facts of his adventure are almost as epic and expansive as the appendices in the back of the book. As far as travelogues go, I’ve never read better. Nicolay’s music can be found here, RVIVR and Bridge and Tunnel here and here.


 
 

The Tao of Bill Murray

posted by: September 26, 2016 - 7:00am

Cover art for The Tao of Bill MurrayLet’s be honest, you don’t need to know anything other than the title to decide if you want to read The Tao of Bill Murray: Real-Life Stories of Joy, Enlightenment and Party Crashing by Gavin Edwards.

 

Murray is, of course, the comedian who starred in such classics as Ghostbusters and Caddyshack, and later in critically acclaimed roles in Lost in Translation and Olive Kitteridge. If you’re even the most casual Bill Murray fan, you’ve probably heard a Bill Murray story. Someone sneaks up behind you on the street and covers your eyes…you turn around, and it’s Bill Murray. Or Bill Murray steals your sunglasses at a winery, or shows up at your party and washes the dishes before disappearing into the night. Basically, Bill Murray shows up randomly, does something random and often ends the encounter by whispering in your ear, “No one will ever believe you.”

 

This book collects these Bill Murray stories, from strangers, from acquaintances, from Bill Murray himself. The first section is a brief history of his upbringing, passions and start in the film business. Next, in “The Ten Principles of Bill,” amusing Bill Murray anecdotes are divided into sections according to which life principle they illustrate (“Invite yourself to the party.” “Surprise is golden. Randomness is lobster.”). Finally, the “Films of Bill Murray” is a chronological listing of his films and, of course, another opportunity to provide more fun stories.

 

Some of the anecdotes come with an implied “Don’t Try This at Home” warning. We can all strive to be more fun-loving like Bill Murray…but we can never BE Bill Murray. Sure, some of the antics would be amusing no matter who was behind them. Others — like hitting a stranger with a snowball, or walking into a stranger’s house and sitting down to breakfast — would be decidedly less charming if you are not an international film star.

 

Though this is a lighthearted read, Edwards also retells stories that paint Murray as impetuous, chronically late and difficult to work with. It’s a good reminder that even an epic folk hero like Bill Murray has his imperfections.


 
 

Between the Covers with Jill Kargman

posted by: September 20, 2016 - 7:00am

Cover art for Sprinkle Glitter on My GraveJill Kargman, creator and star of Bravo’s Odd Mom Out, has been called the Edith Wharton of contemporary Manhattan, specifically the Upper East Side. She’s a best-selling novelist with a sharp wit that is evident in her newest book of humorous essays, Sprinkle Glitter on My Grave: Observations, Rants and Other Uplifting Thoughts About Life. From bothersome behaviors to musings that keep her awake at night, Kargman puts it all on the table in her own unique, uproarious delivery. Get to know Jill as she answers questions about her latest book, the demands of television and life on the Upper East Side.

 

Between the Covers: Sprinkle Glitter on My Grave is absolutely hilarious and one of my favorite books of the year. How difficult is it to get your snarky voice on the page?

 

Jill Kargman: I basically just write like I talk! My dad told me to do that ages ago so it's really like breathing to me.

 

BTC: This book, complete with your doodles, seems almost like a diary or journal. How did it come about?

 

JK: I actually had a template from my last nonfiction book, Sometimes I Feel Like a Nut so I essentially redid that format but with new anecdotes, lists and rants.

 

BTC: The title is perfect and I believe your daughter is responsible for it. How else did your family influence this book?

 

JK: Yes! Ivy came up with it ’cause she thought flowers, which die quickly, are depressing in graveyards so she is going to sprinkle glitter on my grave because it's hard to clean up. My brother, mom, dad, husband and other two kids Sadie and Fletch plus my former sister-in-law forever friend Drew. Everyone in my life is part of my humor and my five bridesmaids 15 years ago are still my sisters.

 

BTC: I think the reason I love Sprinkle Glitter on My Grave is the many common irks we share, including the thunderous applause for certain dead celebrities at awards ceremony’s death roll calls which makes my blood boil! Sharing what’s in your head helps some of your readers know we aren’t alone, but how do the people/groups you are making fun of, especially the Upper East Siders, react to you and your writing?

 

JK: They weirdly don't care and always think it's other people — which it is, since no one thinks she's a bad mom or spends too much or hears herself when she does a humble brag. ("Ugh the traffic to Teterboro was a nightmare!")

 

BTC: Describe your writing process. Do you write every day? Do you have a go-to snack or beverage while writing?

 

JK: I have a huge iced coffee and work out and shower, then get an omelet, then work. I usually have two main meals a day so I'll work ’til my kids get home so like four hours — I can't be funny after that!

 

BTC: You finished college (Yale no less!) in three years, started your first job as a writer at age 20 at Interview magazine and had your first novel published at 27. To achieve such success at such a young age must have been a heady experience. How did your career and life experiences during your 20s shape your writing today?

 

JK: I was miz at Interview — the worst two years — I was basically a secretary BUT I got to write a ton of little articles and some features so it was all worth it but at the time I had NO idea how it would pay off. But each job was such a stepping stone including being berated by [jerks] because it built a crocodile skin and [lots] of appreciation for the people I love and observational skills.

 

BTC: Your hit Bravo show, Odd Mom Out, is now in its second season and it’s even better than the first. What is it like being the creator, producer and star of a hit television show and how has it impacted your life as a writer, wife and mom?

 

JK: I LOVE IT! It's been the most fun I've ever had. When my kids were little (I had three kids in five years) I thought I was losing my mind and needed to be alone and write my books which was like therapy. But now they're older so writing Sprinkle Glitter on My Grave was actually isolating so I was so psyched to get back into the writers room for Odd Mom Out where we laugh all day as a group.

 

BTC: Favorite episode?

 

JK: The ODD Couple, episode 205.

 

BTC: Our readers love reading! Can you share what you are reading now?

 

JK: The September issue of Vogue.

 

BTC: Favorite book of the year?

 

JK: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.

 

BTC: Favorite book as a child?

 

JK: Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume.

 

BTC: Any memories of hijinks in libraries?

 

JK: Uh....you don't want to know. Rated X. The stacks at Yale are legendary. ;)

 

BTC: You have so much on your plate, but what can we expect next?

 

JK: I'm doing a show at The Carlyle in January of 2017 called “Stairway to Cabaret,” which is heavy metal covers at the piano with standup. Come up to NYC and say hi!!!

 

Thanks for doing this! I love Baltimore! XOJK


 
 

10 New TV Series with Book Tie-Ins

posted by: August 31, 2016 - 7:00am

Cover art for The Marvelous Land of OzCover art for The ExorcistCover art for A Series of Unfortunate EventsAs summer winds down, we look forward to cooler weather, pumpkin-flavored everything and fall television premiers! If you’re like me and you need to read the book before you watch it on screen, here are 10 new series premiering this television season based on books.

 

Hulu’s Chance, based on the book by Kem Nunn, is a psychological thriller set in San Francisco about a psychiatrist, his female patient with multiple personality disorder and her homicide detective husband.

 

NBC’s Emerald City is a modern reimagining of L. Frank Baum’s Land of Oz series featuring 20-year-old Dorothy Gale and a K9 police dog.

 

Fox’s The Exorcist, based on the 1971 novel by William Peter Blatty, follows a new family’s fight against demonic possession.

 

Amazon’s Good Girls Revolt is based on the true story of author Lynn Povich and 45 other women who sued Newsweek for sex discrimination in 1970.

 

Hulu’s The Handmaid's Tale is based on the classic dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood.

 

NBC’s Midnight, Texas is a supernatural drama based on the series by Charlaine Harris — also the author of the Sookie Stackhouse books which formed the basis for HBO’s True Blood.

 

NBC’s Powerless is a workplace comedy about an insurance company set in the DC Comics Universe.

 

CW’s Riverdale is a live-action teen drama based on the characters from Archie Comics, celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.

 

Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is based on the children’s series by Lemony Snicket about three orphaned siblings.

 

ABC’s Still Star-Crossed, based on the teen novel by Melinda Taub, features the Montagues and Capulets in the aftermath of Romeo and Juliet’s tragic deaths.


 
 

50 for Your Future

posted by: August 22, 2016 - 7:00am

Cover art for 50 for Your FutureIf you ever find yourself seeking words of wisdom to help motivate you, look no further than to Tavis Smiley, one of TIME Magazine's 100 Most Influential People, a PBS talk show host and The New York Times bestselling author. His latest, 50 for Your Future: Lessons from Down the Road, is an inspirational guidebook through the ups and downs, twists and turns of life.

 
50 for Your Future contains 208 vivid, eye-catching pages full of insight. Readers will learn 50 beneficial lessons that Tavis Smiley himself has learned over the years — the mistakes that he has made, the lessons he's learned (and is still learning) and the valuable advice he's gathered from family members, mentors and celebrities are found.

 

Other Tavis Smiley titles include Before You Judge: The Triumph and Tragedy of Michael Jackson's Last Days and The Covenant with Black America: Ten Years Later. To find out more, visit Tavis Smiley's website.

 


 
 

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