Crocodiles - 5 books to read before you die
- Jun 19, 2012
At Red Room we’re busy looking ahead to a packed summer schedule of festivals, the only problem is – we can’t stand the travelling! With this in mind we got in touch with Crocodiles songwriter Charles Rowell, the man behind one of the finest albums of the summer in ‘Endless Flowers’, to recommend to us some books to keep us occupied…
Charlie from San Diego R & B quintet Crocodiles here. I have been asked by Sir Dick Branson himself [well, almost] to compile a list of FIVE BOOKS that he should read before he dies. I thought it was a bit morbid of him to ask in that way but what can you say to the man? He's been giving me Asian vegetarian meals and comfy aisle seats since I was in diapers! So here we go…
Jim Carroll - Forced Entries
Kicking off my list (of pretty famous writers and probably even more famous novels) is America's number one basketball playing artist junkie Jim Carroll. I related to him straight away after reading ‘Basketball Diaries’ at a very young age. The fact that it was set in New York, a place that at the time seemed like a futuristic steel city where only crazy freaks lived, was quite enchanting, not to mention the drug use which was still foreign to me - it definitely had a roll in persuading me to try out any extra circular activities. I was living in rural Pennsylvania at the time and was playing basketball regularly. I was only up the mountain from where Keith Haring was from! Such a long winded back story isn't it?
Moving along, I received ‘Forced Entries’ from someone who I probably shared a bed with somewhere. It was probably in the morning as I was leaving for the elevator that they shoved it my hands, bare breasted and full of delirious delight. Having fallen for Jim originally because he was an athlete degenerate like myself this particular book came at a time when I was priming myself for a more artistic venture. It's still plain as day Jim falling into a million beautifully disastrous situations but this time he was older, like me at the time, and trying to pull the cosmos together for something pure and exciting. My favourite story would definitely be when Allen Ginsberg came to stay at his flat!
Colin MacInnes - Absolute Beginners
Having recently moved to London, England it was only a matter of time before I would become one of those dapper Dan's that trolled around the west end looking for pills, drinking far too much Pepsi cola, and taking in the odd midday cabaret.
I have begun to slowly delve into the historic sites of West London and with that useless cloud of knowledge comes this brilliant time piece from Colin MacInnes. In fact, this is the third novel in a series of London based books by the man, perhaps I should read them all. I feel slightly foolish now, thank you. ‘Absolute Beginners’ takes place in the summer of 1958 when race related violence had seized west London, more specifically the Notting Hill riots. The main character is your standard sweet stylish pal stuck in the middle trying to keep peace while retaining his cool, not unlike Jimmy from ‘Quadrophenia’ or ‘Blue from Babylon’, both of which were co-written Martin Stellman. It's written beautifully and is chalk full of music and fashion fodder from the primitive age of beatnik cool.
James Baldwin - Giovanni's Room
After reading a dedication to James Baldwin on the blog Dangerous Minds, I found this book on a shelf at Half Price Books in Seattle, a lovely place to shop for literature by the way. The time at which I was reading this was spent in Paris, seeing as that was the city it was set in, it brought the entire story to life. I now have an unhealthy attraction to waiters and bartenders in Paris. Which is probably not the correct attitude to have after reading about what James Baldwin went through while infatuated with a certain drink slinger.
He is certainly one of America's lesser appreciated writers or maybe I am just a cretin who doesn't know enough. As far as African American writers go, he is the only one I am familiar with who has gone to Paris to escape an uncertain marriage only to wind up in a terribly blighted homosexual romance. A boy can only dream of having such spectacular bad luck!
Vladamir Nabokov - Laughter In The Dark
The novel ‘Lolita’ will always have a special place in my heart. It was definitely the first novel I fell in love with. The town and its characters still whirl around my head in panoramic splendour. Of course, it was also my first introduction to the lascivious sexual desire that can occur between a man and a very young girl.
In ‘Laugher In The Dark’, Nabokov takes his main character terribly far from his original sane and safe living, and completely casts him into the worst position a man could hope to be. Why do I have such a strong interest in books that involve infidelity and devolve into death? Anyways, so we have to sit back and watch things unravel for poor unfortunate art aficionado Albert. Not unlike Giovanni's Room, he gets in way too far and the crumbling sanity is beautiful and heart-wrenching.
John Fante - Dreams From Bunker Hill
I could have written about ‘Ask The Dust’, ‘Brotherhood of The Grape’ or ‘West Of Rome’ because they all are basic but incredibly profound. However, I am going to write about ‘Dreams From Bunker Hill’, a novel that was dictated a few years before his death. John works his way around Los Angeles (throughout the majority of his work) from the top to the bottom. His writing always depended on the sublime dissatisfaction of being neglected despite having talent and craft.
The people he meets and the situations he has experienced are second only to the fact that he could turn anything into brilliance. These books really grab the essence of Los Angeles in the thirties and forties. The type of living that the majority of the city was certainly experiencing; poverty, family failure, drug use, celebrities, greasy cafes, con artists and beautiful evil women.
By Charles Rowell