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I'd honestly never heard of him until I snatched this book from a remainder bin, but Ian Penman appears to be something of a cult writer in England.  He had the good fortune to begin his career in 1977, when punk rock was revitalizing the music scene, and was hired by New Music Express (NME), the best of the British music periodicals.  Today he's mainly writing reviews for The Guardian, still some music but also books and stuff.

This collection of material is fairly wide-ranging, though, oddly enough, the rock music writing is the least interesting in the book.  Penman's style is fairly slangy and staccato, so some of it is tough sledding for an American reader.  Plus, some of his concerns, has been bands, British TV, sex, drugs, alcohol, are a tad parochial.  I guess his trademark is the clever use of parentheses to express double meanings--(c)harmless; in(ter)dependence; etc.--which can be amusing but is always distracting.

What redeems the book are some very good essays on such varied topics as The Rockford Files, Steve Martin, Harry Dean Stanton, Clint Eastwood and Jim Thompson, all of them positive, and then some real bloodlettings performed on Quentin Tarantino, Jack Nicholson, Frank Zappa, and a few others.  I disagree with only the Tarantino assessment, but even it is done with such gusto that it's at least enjoyable.  On balance, there's more good than bad here and it was enough to get me to look for his byline in the future.


Grade: (C+)


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Music Literature
Book-related and General Links:
    -ESSAY : Rebel or Retard? : Who is Pee Wee Herman and why do Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone want to be him? Ian Penman digs the dirt on rock's newest stuporsta (Star Hits Magazine, November, 1987)
    -ESSAY : Between Innocence and Forbidden Knowledge....comes The Fall (New Musical Express, August 19th 1978)
    -ESSAY : The Resurrection of Saint Dave (Ian Penman, October 1995, Esquire)
    -ESSAY : As Vyvyan said, it's...  Rik with a Silent P (Ian Penman , New Musical Express, August 4, 1984)
    -ESSAY : Terre Thaemlitz's polymorphous electronica exercises its right to be perverse. (Ian Penman, The Wire, Issue 206, April 2001)
    -ESSAY : Black Secret Tricknology : Tricky's debut Album Maxinquaye is the most feted, discussed and misunderstood record of the moment. Ian Penman steps back from the media feeding frenzy to consider a music that wreaks havoc with our notions of sex, soul and technology (The Wire, March 1995)
    -ESSAY : MATTERS OF LIFE & DEATH : Mourning becomes Diamanda Galás. Invoking her Orthodox heritage, she has turned her death songs into a weapon trained on holocaust revisionists, be they early 20th century perpetrators of Greek-Armenian massacres or today?s silencers covering up the reality of AIDS. (Ian Penman, Decemnber 1999, The Wire)
    -REVIEW : of Hunter S Thompson's collection, Fear and Loathing in America (Ian Penman, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW : of Landor's Tower by Iain Sinclair (Ian Penman, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW : of The Noonday Demon: An Anatomy of Depression by Andrew Solomon (Ian Penman, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW : of London Bone by Michael Moorcock (Ian Penman, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW : of A Drink with Shane MacGowan and Simon Napier-Bell's history of pop gossip Black Vinyl, White Powder (Ian Penman, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW : of Rickie Lee Jones  Jazz Cafe, London  (Ian Penman, February 10, 2001, The Guardian)
    -INTERVIEW : with Scritti Politti : REFLECTIONS ON IN(TER)DEPENDENCE ( Ian Penman, New Musical Express, November 1978)

    -ESSAY : Critical Mass :  Brian Dillon on the life-changing rock journalism of Lester Bangs and Paul Morley (Spike)
    -ESSAY : Melody Maker, R.I.P. : When the music mattered: A former writer for the New Musical Express looks back at the overheated world of the British music weeklies. (Cath Carroll, December 2000, Salon)