Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001-2011 by Lizzy Goodman – review

This oral history of New York’s musical renaissance is vivid, informative and full of passion

Oral histories work brilliantly at encapsulating complex music scenes (for example: Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain’s Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk), with one proviso – you’ve got to marshal a veritable army of interviewees who’re not only prepared to talk, but also to gossip, muse, digress, ramble, even bitch and fume, to build the most accurate picture.

Set against a backdrop that encompasses 9/11, the collapse of the old-style music industry, the gentrification of New York, and an emergent social media, journalist Lizzy Goodman’s Meet Me in the Bathroom more than fulfils this brief. She features not only an impressive array of key musical players from in and around the early 00s’ New York-flavoured guitar explosion (the Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the White Stripes, Interpol, Ryan ...

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco review – Obama, the White House and me

Barack Obama’s right-hand woman overshares details of her own life but holds back on everything you want to know about her bossThe title of Alyssa Mastromonaco’s memoir is taken from a question often posed by Barack Obama, when she was the White House deputy chief of staff (making it on to the list of “Washington’s most powerful, least famous people”). The cover photo features Mastromonaco sitting on Air Force One, with the first African American US president lolling casually beside her. However, what looks set to be an insider narrative on the Obama administration soon emerges as what Mastromonaco terms an “advice book/memoir geared towards women between the ages of about 15-25”. This is an approach that, while valid in its own right (Mastromonaco, now in her 40s, is an engaging, vivid narrator), is frustrating when it comes to delivering real insights on either the Obama presidency or the ...

Jenny Slate: ‘Ivanka Trump is a fake feminist and should be ashamed’

The US actor, standup and author on her new film, Gifted, rescuing her career after being fired from Saturday Night Live, inspirational women and the terrifying situation in the White House Jenny Slate, 35, is an American comedian, actor and author. The middle of three sisters, with a ceramicist mother and poet father, she was raised in Milton, Massachusetts. While at Columbia University, Slate performed standup and improv. Moving to Los Angeles with then-husband, director Dean Fleischer-Camp (they’ve since amicably divorced), Slate joined Saturday Night Live in 2009, but accidentally swore in her first episode and was fired after one season. A stop-motion short animation made with Fleischer-Camp, Marcel the Shell With Shoes On, became a viral hit, leading to New York Times bestseller children’s books and plans for a feature-length movie. With her distinctive voice, Slate featured in Zootopia and The Secret Life of Pets. On television, she ...

Jenny Slate: ‘Ivanka Trump is a fake feminist and should be ashamed’

The US actor, standup and author on her new film, Gifted, rescuing her career after being fired from Saturday Night Live, inspirational women and the terrifying situation in the White House Jenny Slate, 35, is an American comedian, actor and author. The middle of three sisters, with a ceramicist mother and poet father, she was raised in Milton, Massachusetts. While at Columbia University, Slate performed standup and improv. Moving to Los Angeles with then-husband, director Dean Fleischer-Camp (they’ve since amicably divorced), Slate joined Saturday Night Live in 2009, but accidentally swore in her first episode and was fired after one season. A stop-motion short animation made with Fleischer-Camp, Marcel the Shell With Shoes On, became a viral hit, leading to New York Times bestseller children’s books and plans for a feature-length movie. With her distinctive voice, Slate featured in Zootopia and The Secret Life of Pets. On television, she ...

Little Labours by Rivka Galchen review – a stimulating curio

The acclaimed US writer marvels at a whole new way of being interrupted in these witty, smart essays about motherhoodBrooklyn-based author Rivka Galchen (American Innovations; Atmospheric Disturbances) was one of the New Yorker’s “20 under 40” writers to watch in 2010. On the front of her first nonfiction book, Little Labours, there’s a puma, representing Galchen’s baby daughter, whom she refers to as a “puma” throughout most of the book (“A puma moved into my apartment, a near mute force”). Galchen, who says she’d never been particularly interested in motherhood and babies, who was “repelled” by the thought of writing about them, reflects that once her child arrived “the world seemed ludicrously, suspiciously, adverbially, sodden with meaning”. It soon becomes clear that this slim, elegant volume of essays couldn’t be filed away as mere maternal navel-gazing (You know the kind of thing: “I’m the ...

Uncommon People: The Rise and Fall of the Rock Stars by David Hepworth – review

Hepworth’s lively study of rock’s greatest stars, from Little Richard to Kurt Cobain, underlines how much the music industry has changed In Uncommon People: The Rise and Fall of the Rock Stars, music writer, presenter and author of 1971: Never a Dull Moment, David Hepworth, not only pronounces “the rock star” dead, he traces the time of death to around the mid-1990s, with Kurt Cobain described as “a genuine rock star, possibly the last one”. While Uncommon People is full of death (Presley, Lennon, Bowie), the most significant is that of the industry as it was Continue reading...

Gone by Min Kym review – one prodigy’s passion for her violin

The theft of Min Kym’s Stradivarius made worldwide headlines – but her autobiography shows that wasn’t all she’d lost in lifeIn 2010, violinist and erstwhile child prodigy, 31-year-old Min Kym was with her partner in a Pret A Manger at Euston station, when her 1696 Stradivarius was stolen from under the table. Kym was so devastated at the loss of “her” instrument, that she descended into a depression and, for a while, couldn’t bear to play. Three years later, the story hit the headlines again, when the Stradivarius was recovered. Seemingly, it was a wonderful fairy tale ending, though, as Kym details in this powerful bruising memoir, the reality was far more complex. Her entire identity seems to be wrapped up in it, her dark symbiotic twin – she calls it “the One”, her “soulmate” Continue reading...