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The Bookshelf Diaries (An Occasional Series): Rob Yardumian, Kate Atkinson, Don Felder

The Bookshelf Diaries (An Occasional Series): Rob Yardumian, Kate Atkinson, Don Felder

In recent years my reading list has been around 50 percent favorite series (see: Robert Crais, Michael Connelly, Ace Atkins, Lee Child), 25 percent rock and roll (biographies or rock-related fiction) and 25 percent randomly discovered novels selected for craft and reputation more than subject matter. Next time around I may focus on the former—as each of the above-mentioned quartet of authors either just published a new one, or is about to—but this time I’m going to zero in on the latter two categories.

Rob Yardumian’s terrific debut novel The Sound of Songs Across the Water is one I’ve mentioned before, which I came across while researching possible small-press homes for the sequel to Believe in Me. Yardumian’s evocative story sounds familiar echoes from the pantheon of rock fiction (and non-fiction): the singer and the guitar player, the careful, self-contained architect of sound and the instinctive, id-driven creator, the endlessly circling frenemies drawn to one another by equal measures of fascination and resentment. Riley Oliver is the singer who’s crossed three thousand miles and 15 years of estrangement to tempt his former bandmate Will Taylor—now a successful LA producer—with a fresh batch of songs. It’s a deliciously fraught premise that’s further complicated by Riley’s attraction to Will’s wife Lena, and Will’s attraction to a singer he’s producing when not giving away studio time to Riley. The cross-currents of jealousy and competition and loyalty and betrayal run thick, and Yardumian’s confident, at times elastic prose brings a melody all its own to this smartly-crafted tale.

The best-seller list isn’t one of my typical sources for new reading material. It’s not that I’m a literary snob—I love a good beach read as much as the next guy or gal—it’s just that I haven’t historically found a lot there that holds my interest beyond the jacket copy. I wasn’t sure Kate Atkinson’s bestseller Life After Life was going to, either, but the high concept—what if you could live your life over and over again until you got it right?—was undeniably intriguing. It seems to me that the key to pulling off a piece like this is that the high concept has to be the foundation rather than the capstone of your story—a base from which to build a narrative that would be compelling on its own. And Atkinson does this admirably, populating her heroine Ursula Todd’s serial lives with a memorable supporting cast of family and lovers as she grows up in pre-World War II England, over and over again. Ursula’s gradually increasing awareness of her past lives creates a variety of tantalizing possibilities, with fate intervening again and again before she finally arrives at a compelling conclusion about what is truly worth living—and dying—for.

I’m one of those Eagles fans who loved them until I hated them. They had a good run in the ’70s, but their 1994 reunion quickly degenerated into a sterile money-grab, an endless series of overpriced, passionless arena tours that most notoriously included 2003’s Final Farewell I Tour. As in, “Ha, ha, suckers, thanks for the Lamborghinis and we’ll see you again next year!” Guitarist Don Felder was part of the band from 1974 until 2001, spurring their evolution from melodic country rockers toward a bigger, heavier sound, and composing the music for the group’s signature tune “Hotel California.” Felder’s cautionary tale is by turns predictable and revealing, as he shares inside stories of life with “The Gods”—sole remaining original members Don Henley and Glenn Frey—as they gradually drive out the rest of the group, treating whoever remains like hired hands. (Felder’s 2001 firing led to a series of lawsuits as Felder attempted to collect his due and Frey and Henley attempted to prevent this book from being published). There are plenty of familiar rock and roll tropes here—including, at the core, friendships overrun by drugs, ego and greed—but it’s an absorbing read even if you feel like you know the story already.

Comment (1)

  • Agnes Joelle Bourneuf

    I read it 4 times and I have been absorbed every time from beginning to end , it's just awesome, I recommend it to every fans, so they finally discovered the other side of the history of the Eagles. AJ

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