Peoria, Tazewell, And Woodford: Here, There & Everywhere

2017 Books Compiled by Professor Mike Foster


2017 Books


Homeward Bound: The Life Of Paul Simon by Peter Ames Carlin.

A Christmas gift from Jo.

A genius, but like many geniuses, Simon was selfish and not completely a nice guy.


His deeply ambivalent relationship with Garfunkel is sad but “true love ways” often are.


Likewise was his on-off-on-off-on-off love and marriage with Carrie Fisher.


He was capable of prodigal generosity, as to The Roches and Beverley Martyn, and profound ingratitude.


But his records are exquisite: the price of love is often loneliness laced with joy.


If my mother had not disposed of my rare early 45s, like “Motorcycle” by Tico & The Trumphs (#97) and “The Lone Teen Ranger” (#99), I’d still have them.


“Baby Driver” was my first clue to that link.


Finished on Jan.1.




Skeleton Hill by Peter Lovesey.


This tenth Peter Diamond murder mystery set in Bath begins with an English Civil War (oxymoron) re-enactment and proceeds through horseplay to death.


Finished Jan. 9.


Born To Run  by Bruce Springsteen, 512 pages.


I finished Springsteen’s seven-year labor (same duration as seminary) of automythopoeia Born To Run at 4 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 13..


He writes wonderfully but uses ALL! CAPS! TOO! DAMNED! MUCH!


The more he succeeded, the more miserable and depressed he got.


As in Klonopin sleep-twelve-hours-a-day anhedonically depressed.




Anatomy Of A Song by Marc Myers.

At the library Friday, Jo got me a book called “Anatomy Of A Song” by Marc Myers.

The writing of “White Rabbit,” “Light My Fire.” “Carey” by Joni Mitchell from Blue, “Groovin’,” “Losing My Religion,” “Moonlight Mile,” “Street Fighting Man” are all fascinating tales.

“White Rabbit”: Grace Slick based the melody on Miles Davis’ Sketches Of Spain.

“Light My Fire”: guitarist Robbie Krieger wrote it over a weekend when The Doors needed more songs for their eponymous first album in 1967. He cribbed the chord progression from John Coltrane’s “Ole.”

“Moonlight Mile”: Jagger wrote it with an Indian / Oriental feel. Mick Taylor and Charlie Watts are the only other Stones on it.

“Street Fighting Man”: the basic track recorded in 1968 onto an early cassette recorder by Keith on acoustic guitar and Charlie on a 1930s miniature drummer practice kit. Dave Mason and Brian Jones added the Indian instruments at the end.

“Carey” is about a guy, now an investment banker, that Joni had a potent but volatile and brief Cretan affair with while living in a cave with him in Matala after her devastating break-up with Graham Nash.

“Groovin’”: Felix admits that many, including Jo, mistook “you and me endlessly” for “you and me and Lesley.”

There are 45 such stories all told, originally written as columns for the Wall Street Journal.

I read it in a day, finishing it on Jan. 14.


Never Say No To A Rock Star by Glenn Berger.

Especially when she is Bette Midler and you two are in her bed.

Berger engineered many pop music hits discs in the ‘Seventies, beginning with “American Tune” by Paul Simon, before becoming (…wait for it…) a psychotherapist.

Simon gets his greatest admiration and loathing, but heavier on the loathing.

Perfectionists are cold, sullen, and hard to work with, as you may know.

Berger is utterly mesmerized by Mick Jagger, who calls him “Ginj-ah,” awed by Aretha Franklin, frustrated by Bob Fosse, and beguiled by the old jazz horn cats who turn up on sessions.

I finished this on Sunday, Jan. 15.

Watching the Green Bay Packers upset the Dallas Cowboys was better.



Altamont: The Rolling Stones, The Hell’s Angels, And Rock’s Darkest Day by Joel Selvin.


It is altogether too apt for what lies ahead with Trump.


Hubris, greed, poor planning, egotism: a bandwagon that becomes a juggernaut.


“Gimme Shelter.”


Another common thread linking Altamont to Trump: no one—hotels, helicopters, road managers, ambulances, limousines—got paid.


A Hell’s Angel gets away with murder but later is murdered.


Many of the principals simply disappear, going back into the Darkness that was prepared for them.


The Rolling Stones walk away with a lot of money.


Finished Jan. 17.





Stagestruck  by Peter Lovesey.


Finished on Jan. 20, the day Trump was inaugurated, this eleventh Peter Diamond mystery deals with a Bath drama company’s ill-starred attempt to revive “I Am A Camera” and the fading career of a pop diva who becomes the killer’s second victim.


The murderer is unlikely, but then that is often the case in English mysteries.


Back to Í Am Brian Wilson, the head Beach Boys’ autopathobiography, which I finished at 2:40 today.





I Am Brian Wilson by Brian Wilson with Ben Greenman.


Sometimes harrowing, sometimes hopeful, this unflinching self-portrait chronicles the boss Beach Boy’s battles with a domineering dad, depression, drugs, alcohol, an abusive analyst, and cousin and BB co-founder Mike Love.


God only knows how he wrote some of the happiest songs ever recorded.


“Good vibrations” is a term that his mother Audrey often used.


She and his youngest brother Carl were the sunshine in his life.


The style is repetitive, the content compelling.


I had not known that Bruce Berry, the Neil Young roadies whose death Young details in “Tonight’s The Night,” was the youngest brother of Jan & Dean’s Jan Berry.


Dean Torrence did the cover design for the Boys’ 1976 15 Big Ones and 1977 Beach Boys Love You, both quite unremarkable in light of their brilliant work only a decade before, Pet Sounds.


In 2016, First Lady Michelle Obama recruited Brian as an ally in her campaign to promote understanding of mental illness.


I finished this on Friday, Jan. 20, the day of the inauguration of Donald Trump, who personifies Brian’s song “Guess I’m Dumb” with an evil anti-environmental undercurrent that a Beach Boy could never have imagined.




Cop To Corpse by Peter Lovesey.


A seeming serial slaying of three uniformed Bath beat coppers is resolved by the unlikely solution of two killers, both quite unlikely.


Finished in the pain clinic waiting room on Tuesday, Jan. 31.




The Tooth Tattoo by Peter Lovesey.


Three musical murders: two Japanese women, one with the title tattoo of a quaver (a quarter note) on her incisor and the founding violist member of The Staccati Quartet, a string foursome, who’d gone missing in Vienna but turns up in Bath four years later.


Each of the quartet and their manager are suspects.


One of them, the most likeable, did it.


Finished Tuesday, Feb. 7.




Testimony by Robbie Robertson, completed on Thursday. Feb. 9.

I just finished Robbie Robertson’s self-serving autobiography Testimony.

Robertson broke up The Band in 1976.

No one but he wanted to do it.

Heroin and alcohol had affected Richard Manuel, the group’s most soulful singer, leading to his gruesome suicide by hanging himself with his belt in a shower stall at age 42.

Levon and Rick had problems, but not fatal ones.

They helped Richard’s widow get him down.

Levon was so peeved by Robertson’s decision to quit that he refused to show up for The Band’s Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction.




Remembering Chris by Julie Mitchell.


An anthology of reminiscences of my late friend Chris Mitchell, the director of Wheaton College’s Wade Center, collected by his wife.


It made me wish I’d had a few more lunches and more beers with this good and gentle man.


Read on the way up to Naperville on Feb. 11.




A Well of Wonder: Essays on C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Inklings by Clyde S. Kilby. Edited by Loren Wilkinson and Keith Call. Paraclete Press: Brewster, Massachusetts, and Barga, Italy. 348 pages.  ISBN 978-1-61261-862-3. Hardcover. $28.99

This collection of essays by that genteel, gentle teetotal hobbit that I am reviewing for Mythlore was finished Feb. 21.

Kilby was the first of the four men that I knew that knew Tolkien.

He introduced me to George Sayer, author of the best C.S. Lewis biography, Jack, and thus our memorable afternoon with Sayer and Margaret in their Malvern home in 1993.

I have nominated this book for the Mythopoeic Society’s 2017 Inklings scholarship award.

Using my December, 1978, Journal Star feature interview story with Kilby and my notes from interviews with him in 1978 and 1980, I was able to supplement my review with reminiscences.



No Man’s Land: a Novel by Simon Tolkien, finished Feb. 24.


A history of early 20th-century coal mine exploitation and unrest, followed by the horrors of the Somme, mixed with a love story between Adam, a poor but honest boy who grows into the same kind of man, and Miriam, a similar woman, a country parson’s daughter.


Long and grim, but, as in his grandfather’s The Lord of the Rings, goodness final triumphs: eucatastrophe.



The Stone Wife by Peter Lovesey

The title character in the fourteenth Peter Diamond mystery, and the sixth read this year, is a fourteenth-century bas-relief carving of Chaucer’s Wife of Bath of Bath.

The tale begins with a murder at an art auction where said “Wife” is on the block, as it were.

Medieval art and literature and modern murder: who could ask for anything more?

I finished this on Feb. 26, just before the Campbell clan came over for a Greek feast.


Down Among the Dead Men by Peter Lovesey.

Diamond sets off on an unwanted team mission with his formidable boss, Chief Inspector Georgina Dallymore, to ferret out police corruption in a murder case that may involve a cover-up by one of his former protégés of involvement by her daughter.

The fifteenth in the series and the seventh this year, a good yarn that I finished it on March 1.


A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny.

I completed this a bit before 4 p.m. on March 8.


My goodness.


One of best Inspector Gamache mysteries, it evoked Simon Tolkien’s No Man’s Land in the Great War complications.


I’ll take a sip of Rogue Bandit India Pale Ale and return to the Leonard Cohen biography.


By the way, another Penny title, Where The Light Gets In, is a line from a Cohen song.


Both Penny and Cohen are Canadian natives.


I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons.

I finished all 533 pages of Sylvie Simmons’ 2012 biography I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen just before company came Friday night, March 10.

He’s quite a writer; reading about his books and poems and songs made me want to re-encounter them.

A mystic of sex, a Zen monk: not a simple soul.

I had not paid enough attention to him since 1969 until I latched onto The Essential Leonard Cohen last year.

He never played Peoria.

The free concerts he gave in mental institutions reminded me of Johnny Cash in Folsom Prison: choose your songs for fit your audience.



Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved By Beauty: An Intimate Portrait Of My Grandmother by Kate Hennessy.

Marquette looms large in that tale: Prof. Bill Miller, Day biographer and historian of the Catholic Worker movement.


The last acknowledgement goes to Phil Runkle, the grey angel of the MU Archives Catholic Worker collection.


It’s a chronicle of courage, defeat, victory, principles, losses, gains, and wounded victory.


Like her grandmother, Kate is a brilliant and soulful writer.


I finished it on the Feast of the Incarnation, March 25.


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This entry was posted on March 30, 2017 by in Mike Foster and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , .


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