MIDLIFE By Elinor Carucci
The Monacelli Press, $45
Midlife is a strange — and slightly and unnecessarily morbid — concept, if you think about it. We arbitrarily and without any obligation create this imaginary, unmarked border that when we cross it, we enter a despairing country of incrementally rising irrelevance. We voluntarily declare ourselves as deteriorating, and apologize for ruining your view of the equally illusory perfection of youth.
Elinor Carucci is one of the most artistic photographers in the world. She is the chief model in her books (this is her fourth, we reviewed Mother, her last, here.) But she’s the real deal to, say, a Cindy Sherman’s fraud, whose photographs are designed to elicit a precise emotional response — and resultant praise at the genius of sparking such response. But Carucci deals in the one aspect the Shermans (and there are others, whose names I can’t remember) never do, honesty! Her pictures dance balletically across a range from breathtakingly painterly to almost the realism and harshness of a crime scene photographer. One photo, My skin, age 46, is so close-up and sharp it looks like a denuded plain in Nebraska, with tiny gossamer hairs sticking up from the ridged, beige, earth-colored skin. Throughout this photo book she exhibits herself and her family nakedly, often, by the way, literally.
If her photos were written stories they’d be like the disturbing magical surrealism of Borges and Marquez. She’s an impressionist, painting in light and shadow, and at the end of the book we have a very human definition of this artificial time of our lives that we are made to feel we have to pay a self-deprecating tax to.
And another thing we learn from this book is that, apparently, her husband, Eran, doesn’t own a shirt.
— Bob Guccione, Jr.
THE CASTLE ON SUNSET: Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont By Shawn Levy
The Chateau Marmont is more than just the hotel where John Belushi died, although, from popular lore, it would be hard to know that. The larger-than-life actor was actually just a blip on the hotel’s legacy. Chateau Marmont, designed after an actual chateau in France’s Loire valley, was the epicenter of Hollywood’s uprising. It was the home for celebrities to get away from it all and get up to no good. Married celebs checked in for trysts. Gay celebs checked in to explore their sexuality. Actress Anna Magnani checked in and filled the halls with the smells of home-cooked Italian food. Levy, who has written about Robert De Niro, The Rat Pack and Paul Newman, takes the deepest of dives to reveal every untold story. And whether or not the hotel was the inspiration for The Eagles’ “Hotel California”, it’ll always be a lovely place.
— Jason Stahl
BIG BLUE WRECKING CREW: Smashmouth Football, a Little Bit of Crazy, and the ’86 Super Bowl Champion New York Giants By Jerry Barca
Every New York Giants fan should read about how this storied franchise assembled one of the greatest teams of all time, that went on to win Super Bowl XXI. Endless tales of injuries, drug use, and, of course, smashmouth football will take the minds of Big Blue faithful off of the team’s recent debacles and shenanigans. I.e., this crap season.
ME By Elton John
Henry Holt and Co, $30
Elton John’s long awaited, recently published memoir is everything you didn’t think you ever wanted to know, but you’re really glad you know it. Quite frankly, it’s glorious — candid, often laugh-out-loud funny and like Sir Elton, larger than life. You don’t even have to be a super fan to enjoy it! Part rock memoir, part drug-fueled joyride through the 1970s, it’s a music icon telling his story the only way it should be done — in his own words.
— Emily Gatlin
TIME IS TIGHT: My Life, Note By Note By Booker T. Jones
Little, Brown and Company, $30
‘Tis the season for new music memoirs! As the leader of the famed Booker T. and the MGs (the Stax Records house band, but one that released some mega hits of their own), Jones was the architect of the Memphis soul sound while still in high school. He collaborated with Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett, and his song “Green Onions” is one of the biggest instrumental hits of all time. Jones helped transform sounds that came out of the segregated South, and was a pioneer black artist who collaborated with white ones, like Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson, in a time when that was not the norm. It’s a fascinating portrait of a man who helped define what we think of as American popular music.