Ask the Expert

Expertise has its own special allure.  Years ago, a good friend bestowed on me the gift of The French Laundry Cookbook.  Now, I will probably never undertake most of its involved, precise and fascinating recipes -- the time to do so just isn't there -- but I'm mesmerized by the insight into how Thomas Keller's genius turns ingredients into high art (Adam Gopnik's recent demurrals about cookbooks aside).  I could say the same thing about the fascinating detail a writer like William Langeweische gives into the work of keeping a plane aloft:  I'd never try to reproduce it, but the sliver of illumination into the pilot's work is one of the most delightful reading experiences.


So, even if you're NOT an aspiring hip-hop artist with a notebook full of rhymes,  a folksinger struggling to graduate beyond the open mic, or a garage band guitarist dreaming of an arena-sized apotheosis, you might find yourself becoming obsessed with Donald Passman's All You Need to Know About the Music Business, just out in a revised seventh edition.  I certainly am.   How does music copyright really work?  What exactly  does a record producer do, and how does he or she get paid?  How much do you stand to make if your song gets played over the end credits of Transformers 3:  Attack of the iPhones?  What about the trailer?  I didn't know that I wanted to know the answers to these questions -- but Passman's book is such a pleasurably informative browse that I do, I do, I do.


Needless to say, if you're a musician interested in making a living at it...there are reading incentives that should be pretty obvious.




April 17: "In less than three years, both GM and Chrysler would be bankrupt, and a resurgent Ford would wow Wall Street..."

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.