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The Early Word: New Books for the Week of June 14. 2010

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Celebrity bios and anarchist chronicles…

Talking to Girls about Duran Duran: One Young Man's Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut
by Rob Sheffield

The titular "Cooler Haircut" — that would be Haircut #100, by the way – looks sharp with your Members Only jacket! And if books are food for thought (and they are) you’ll be hungry like the wolf for the homage to all things ‘80s, Talking to Girls About Duran Duran: One Young Man's Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut by music journalist and Rolling Stone contributing editor Rob Sheffield. A prequel of sorts to Sheffield's celebratory and poignant song-centered memoir and eulogy Love Is a Mix Tape (2007), Talking to Girls is a more scattershot coming-of-age tale than the cohesive romance at the center of Mix Tape, which has an effortless arc as Sheffield dates, marries, and begins life with "a real cool hell-raising Appalachian punk-rock girl" before her untimely death of a pulmonary embolism.

As we delve into Sheffield's development from nerdish "hermit boy" into a young man with his first girlfriend, first apartment, first car, and a growing, groping impression of the world, Talking to Girls advances chronologically, with 25 essays titled after songs released during the '80s. Sheffield pursues a general theme of how distinctively girls and boys talk about, think about, and feel about music, touching upon many artists, from Hall & Oates to Haysi Fantayzee of one-hit-wonderville ("Shiny Shiny"), to more substantial fare like Roxy Music and the Replacements, who “made good imaginary friends.” Popular culture comes in for a brickbats or bouquets with such targets as MTV, big shoulder pads, John Hughes movies, and E.T. — which was about “a sad muppet who thought he was David Bowie.”

And interwoven throughout the mentions of music and modern trends is the chronicle of Sheffield’s life from his stint as an altar boy until he was 16, to his failed stretch on the high school wrestling team, a summer job as an ice-cream truck driver, and a traumatic experience clipping his grandfather's toenails. There’s a lot of talk about girls, of course, and a certain fanaticism with the bass player of Duran Duran, but much of Sheffield’s gift for gab concerns his younger sisters, "the coolest people I knew." But Sheffield and his writing are examples of substance over style, elements arguably lacking in the '80s,  especially when it comes to much of the underwhelming music. After all, says Sheffield, "There are times in a man's life that can only be described as ‘times in a man's life.' The first time he experiences A Flock of Seagulls is one of them." With Kajagoogoo I think you've actually lost time and a half that you'll never get back.

NONFICTION

Between a Heart and a Rock Place: A Memoir
by Pat Benatar

The World That Never Was: A True Story of Dreamers, Schemers, Anarchists, and Secret Agents
by Alex Butterworth

Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and the Marriage of the Century
by Sam Kashner, Nancy Schoenberger

Fly Away: The Great African American Cultural Migrations
by Peter M. Rutkoff

uncharted terriTORI
by Tori Spelling

Blind Descent: The Quest to Discover the Deepest Place on Earth

by James M. Tabor

FICTION

The Overton Window
by Glenn Beck

Whiplash (FBI Series #14)
by Catherine Coulter

How Did You Get This Number
by Sloane Crosley

Imperial Bedrooms
by Bret Easton Ellis

Promises to Keep
by Jane Green

Lowcountry Summer
by Dorothea Benton Frank

Spies of the Balkans
by Alan Furst

That Perfect Someone
by Johanna Lindsey

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