RU Sirius Recommends 10 Books
I read a shit-load of books this year in preparation for interviewing guests for The RU Sirius Show and NeoFiles. In nearly every case, whatever book I was reading became my favorite for at least a few days while I was getting excited about the coming interview. I only got one turkey all year — and no, I'm not going to say which one it was.
I'm not going to go through these one-by-one and explain why I picked them out and placed them above other books that are lower on the list or — indeed — excluded from it. For me, putting together lists of favorites becomes finally an act of intuition. I have to put aside any self-conscious desire to show off how smart or cool I am and just see which ones come bubbling up to the surface.
When I got done putting this list together I was shocked — just shocked — to realize that the first four books on my list were written by women! Well, this has certainly never happened to me before! Of course, one of those women may have had some people fooled but I knew he was a she when I read those books.
OK. I do have to single out a few books for commentary or some might not understand why I included them. Although Robert Greenfield missed the point of Timothy Leary's project, he caught something really poignant about the life. The book touched me as much as it beat me — a Leary fellow traveler — up. Lynn Breedlove still hasn't appeared on The RU Sirius Show. That particular one was canceled by a storm. But I had to acknowledge the book. It made me rise out of my seat and pace around, several times.
- Sarah: A Novel JT LeRoy
- The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things JT LeRoy
- Godspeed: A Novel Lynn Breedlove
- Frantic Transmissions to and from Los Angeles: An Accidental Memoir Kate Braveman
- Timothy Leary: A Biography Robert Greenfield
- Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century edited by Alex Steffan
- From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism Fred Turner
- The Visionary State: A Journey Through California's Spiritual Landscape Erik Davis & Michael Rauner
- Sperm Are from Men, Eggs Are from Women: The Real Reason Men And Women Are Different Joe Quirk
Destiny Recommends Altman
Robert Altman died after directing some great films that were sadly overlooked.
James Caan and Robert Duvall starred in Altman's forgotten Countdown, released just one year before the actual moon landing, in 1968. A surprising human fallibility lurks within the astronauts, but Altman had already proven his fondness for putting conventional heroes through wrenchingly dark plots. His forgotten work on TV shows like Combat and Bonanza are now available on DVD.
During his "exile" from Hollywood in the 80s, Altman filmed a shockingly personal monologue by a disgraced president Richard Nixon (played by Philip Baker Hall). Nixon recaps secret bitterness — while getting drunk — and describes a Secret Honor which (in his story) he must hide from the public. Altman revisited the theme in Tanner '88, a political comedy written by Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau — using his camera to capture a personal nobility at odds with both the media and political landscape.
My favorite Altman film is The Long Goodbye, where Elliot Gould captures that moment in time when the stoic code of Raymond Chandler detective Phillip Marlowe meets a radically different 1970s Los Angeles. But Altman also challenged John Grisham's code for Hollywood heroes in The Gingerbread Man, by trapping Kenneth Branagh in a troublingly muddled universe. Can a dime-novel lawyer bring justice to a truly dysfunctional Southern family? Daryl Hannah plays its troubled daughter, and 30 years after Countdown Robert Duvall worked with Altman one last time.