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The Isaac Mizrahi Pictures by Nick Waplington (Damiani) Non-fiction/ Photography
A super photobook of a very vibrant New York City 1989-93 following many pretty flamingos - male & female - up on the catwalks and down on the dancefloors.
British photographer Nick Waplington was given exclusive access to New York fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi fitting sessions in the weeks before his twice-yearly fashion shows during a five year period. Then there’s the overspill of glamour into the house and techno music clubs.
Overall, it’s more action-traction than erotic, although there’s the occasional splash and flash on the edge of upskirt. Smiling faces and orange joy are mostly the safety-pinned order of these colourful days.
The only negative is a lack of a photo index, but my intuition tells me that this is a book of randoms, random encounters and even close encounters of the fashion conscious kind.
Nick clicks and captures everything well. 8/10
Still Whispering After All These Years by Bob Harris (Michael O’Mara Books Ltd) Non-Fiction/Autobiography
“Whispering” Bob Harris celebrates his very own “Old and Grey” anniversary this year - his 70th birthday - although age has not wearied him nor dampened his ever-youthful enthusiasm for seeking out & sharing new music between the buttons of BBC radio and BBC television.
Currently broadcasting twice weekly to the nation (and the country world) on BBC Radio 2 with an emphasis on mellow music and country tracks, Bob’s new book is an updated version of his hand built autobiography dating back to 2001 , and I have to say, with a significantly less appealing dust jacket, but it’s the words that count and Harris’s hardback is very well-written and still interesting after all these years...
...it has a good flow and beat about it, from close family beginnings in yesterday's Northamptonshire to today's leafy session times in Oxfordshire ‘Under The Apple Tree’.
Cover to cover, all Bob’s ups and downs at the touch of a fader are here, including his many successes at BBC Radio 1, Radio Luxembourg, Reading’s Radio 210, London’s LBC and GLR before being crowned King Of Country music with an OBE (and Sony awards) acknowledging "services to music broadcasting", in particular, for presenting 50 shades of country.
A pleasure to read. 10/10
Perhaps second only to Agatha Christie in the mystery-thriller genre (by female authors) Josephine Tey used both male and female pen-names to write her thrilling fiction throughout the Golden Ages of the 1930’s,1940s and early 1950’s.
In fact, Scottish reclusive Tey produced six mystery novels as part of the “Inspector Alan Grant” series writing as Elizabeth Mackintosh, plus, her stand-alone stories writing as Gordon Daviot. Several of her novels warranted dramatisation, including The Franchise Affair.
This detailed book charts Tey’s life and times from birth to death (in February 1952) and is a true account of the private, but perhaps conflicted, person holding (and hiding behind) a pen.
Top horror writer Stephen King has cited Tey as an influence, and that’s a good enoughrecommendation by anyone's standards - this book being the first comprehensive biography on a remarkable woman.
Hardback released November 2015 ; paperback out March 2016. 8/10
Sarah Moon : Now And Then by Ingo Taubhorn - editor, Brigitte Woischnik - editor and Sarah Moon - photographer (Kehrer) / Non-Fiction/Photography
A hardcover of 160 pages of prints and photographs revealing the dark side of Sarah Moon.
Sarah’s a french photographer and former model. Her modern times are taken up with film and gallery work.
Moon’s illuminations are based on an innate talent for sensing which moving picture would make a most interesting still.
Jungle animals and tropical flower bloom throughout these mostly black & white plains, although some colour awaits to be discovered.
Plus, there is a lovely parade of sad-eyed beauties to admire; such female shapes and shades include my own favourites : Kasia Pysiak (1998) ; Veiled Woman (2011) ; Fashion 5, Gaultier (1998) ; The Red Dress (2010), Christina (2007) and Hommage To Malevich (2014).
Both editors deserve great credit for helping to narrate and document Sarah Moon’s unique photographs in this unusual art book. 9.5/10
Groupies And Other Electric Ladies by Baron Wolman (ACC Editions) Non-Fiction / Photography
Roll away the stone to 15 February, 1969 and to the back pages (and cover) of theRolling Stone magazine. There you’ll find number 27, a ‘Special Super-Duper Neat issue’ called ‘The GROUPIES and Other Girls’ featuring the stills, and skills, of American photo-journalist, Baron Wolman; expertly hired by Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner, Wolman became the publication's first chief photographer.
Groupies And Other Electric Ladies brings Rolling Stone’s original column inches (plus penis plaster casts) bang up to date in erect hardback. Two hundred pages of insightful interviews and iconic photographs.
Every black & white picture tells a back story. Groupies… is a time machine of flower power, deflowering and the sexual revolution, all expertly shot and executed (but never judged) by Wolman.
Hendrix, Joplin, Zappa, The Plaster Casters Of Chicago, and the original 69 babe Karen, are just some of the exciting and strange delights held within. Wenner’s well chosen words give us a heads up on the (then) scene :-
Wenner : “My first encounter with so-called groupies was with my eyes - the clothes they were wearing, the make-up, the extent they went to to present themselves in a style that would attract the attention of guys”.
However, these girls were never easy lays, they knew exactly what they were doing in the bedroom department as well as in the marketing department. Let’s turn on, tune in and drop out with Frank Zappa for his quote :-
Zappa “ If you’re a hit with the groupies, you’ll sell 15,000 records in L.A alone”.
In the swinging sixties rock stars and their electric ladies were set on exactly the same course, one of mutually assured satisfaction. 10/10
Weeping Britannia by Thomas Dixon (Oxford University Press) Non-Fiction / History
Weeping Britannia is a portrait of a ‘Nation in Tears’, its main aim to debunk the myth that the British don’t cry. Ian Hislop, Editor of Private Eye, satirically sums up the book thus (and I quote) ‘Erudite, fascinating, and moving. I almost cried’.
Knowledgeable author, Thomas Dixon, charts six centuries of weeping Britons, from Christian mystic Margery Kempe (born circa 1373, died 1438, and writer of the earliest surviving auto-biography in English), before reaching (just past) the bitter end of ‘The Thatcher Years’ to hear from the cry babies of the ‘X Factor’ generation.
So, modern times are also covered, and all chapters can be read with, not quite, a dry handkerchief to hand. Expert conclusions are hung, drawn and quartered very skillfully throughout by Dixon (a historian of emotions, philosophy, science and religion at Queen Mary University of London) using plenty of stiff, and upper, lip.
And yet, it is the early chunk of centuries Dixon empathetically negotiates that seem to bring the most enlightenment : for example; The Magdalen Weeping (circa 1525) - sadly, as with all the book illustrations, in unforgiving black & white.
This is certainly a well-written, copiously indexed hardback full of histrionics. However, the book lacks colour, and dare I suggest, could have ended a few centuries back (and with more detail) so as to make an even more intriguing period piece. 7.5/10