Hello, and welcome to Book Club. My name is Jason James Crombie, and this is my club.
Although, it’s not really a club, is it? It’s just me telling you what I’ve been reading and whether it’s any good. The Oxford Dictionary of English defines a club as a ‘heavy stick with one end thicker than the other, that is used as a weapon,’ which sounds nothing like my club. However, I do intend to metaphorically hit you over the head with my club, and then metaphorically drag you under a bridge and give you a coat of metaphorical purple spray-paint and leave you there to metaphorically wake up and wonder where you are and why you’re all purple with shit in your pants… But I digress, we’re here to talk about what I’ve been reading of late. Let us begin the many metaphorical blows to your big, fat, gorgeous head.
CHAOS: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties by Tom O’Neill (2019)
First, let me say this: fuck Vincent Bugliosi, lead prosecutor in the Manson trial and author Helter Skelter (1974). HE LIED! If you’ve read Helter Skelter, right now you are definitely thinking, ‘No way.’ But guess what? Way. Big time. This book upset the shit out of me because I’ve been mouthing off about the Manson murders for years, and everything I’ve said has come from Bugliosi’s best-selling crime novel, which is a cock and bull story. The sensational Helter Skelter motive (basically, The Beatles told Charlie to do it) was made up to sell books; but the true story—the story that took investigative journalist Tom O’Neill TWENTY YEARS to uncover–is way more interesting and drags a hell of a lot of high-profile folks down with it. Gnarly. Couldn’t put it down. Definitely read this. Buy here.
Loitering with Intent: The Apprentice by Peter O’Toole (1997)
Peter O’Toole, to my mind, is one of the last great men who ever lived. Better yet—he was one of the last men to live greatly. What a dude. Loitering with Intent: The Apprentice is the follow-up to his first memoir, Loitering with Intent: The Child, which covered the first years of his life through the 30s, 40s and 50s. I’ll get around to reading that eventually, but I really wanted to jump into his young adulthood first because that’s when he got up to the proper mischief. The Apprentice begins in 1953 and Peter has left the British Navy and begun his training at The London Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, where the bow is drawn and the arrow is aimed squarely at a life of brilliance and unmitigated rascality. O’Toole’s anecdotes (starring Richard Burton, Albert Finney and, of course, Richard Harris among others) are incredible (and yet completely credible) and hilarious, and he writes like James Joyce on acid. I may read this one again. Buy here.
The Selected Poems of Anne Sexton by Anne Sexton (1988)
When it comes to reading poetry, I don’t read a whole book in a sitting. Similarly, when it comes to the buffet, I don’t do one lap and build a shameful food mountain on my plate. Instead, I’ll take some lasagne and a pinch of greens, and I’ll return to my seat to eat at my leisure. That’s how you should consume poetry, you swine. I’ve been picking up and putting down The Selected Poems of Anne Sexton since I purchased it in 2014, and I still haven’t read everything. I’ve read the same things ten times over, but there remain poems I haven’t touched yet because it’s a buffet, baby, take your time. Anne Sexton is in my top 5 favourite poets, mainly because she’s so dark and visual. Here’s the opening stanza from one of my favourites, ‘Her Kind’.
I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
I have been her kind.
Have you ever read a more fascinating collection of words? All her stuff is like that. I love Anne Sexton, and you will too, or I’ll smash your letterbox up. Buy here.
Themes and Variations by David Sedaris (2020)
Before David Sedaris was a celebrated author, he would attend readings and book signings by his favourite writers. At one of these appearances, he was in line to have a book signed, and feeling giddy and nervous to meet the author; but when his turn came, the author signed his copy of her memoir without even looking up. She may as well have screeched, ‘NEXT!’ Sedaris felt betrayed and vowed to always be friendly with the people that came to have his signings when the time came. True to his word, Sedaris is famous for being friendly and engaging with the people that come to his readings, and this essay is about the stories he’s heard and the adventures he’s been on as a result. Themes and Variations is a quick and fun read and only costs $2.89. CHEAP! It’s only available on Kindle, though… You should have a Kindle. Buy here.
My Secret Garden: Women’s Sexual Fantasies by Nancy Friday (1973)
To be honest, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what turns a woman on (doing the dishes without being asked, not farting, jumping out of closets nude and bellowing ‘LET’S FUCK!’ etc), but it turns out I didn’t know anything. Until now. My Secret Garden is a collection of women’s fantasies (compiled from letters and interviews) that reveal girls are absolutely filthy and get razzed up by more than just candles and a foot massage. Friday gathered most of the stories and essays that make up My Secret Garden by advertising in the newspaper. The response was a tremendous deluge of smutty and enlightening letters. It’s an interesting read, and despite being published in the 70s, it still contains information that will definitely come in handy to anyone wanting to understand what gets their missus’ in the mood for a spot of coitus interruptus. You are welcome. Buy here.