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Closer You Are: The Story of Robert Pollard and Guided By Voices

3 Oct

CloserYouAre

In 2017, Robert Pollard, an indie rock legend from Dayton, Ohio, hit a milestone few musicians could ever dream of reaching: He released his 100th album. After more than three decades of manically recording at a light-speed pace, Pollard has created a discography so expansive that even he cannot remember everything he has written. Although he has flirted with mainstream success, he is followed by an obsessive fan base that rabidly consumes everything he releases. In Closer You Are, the first official biography written about Pollard, Matthew Cutter does an incredible job documenting a working class kid’s upbringing in the Rust Belt who would go on to have one of the most prolific and strangest careers in all of rock music.

I discovered Robert Pollard’s music as a DJ on my college radio station in the small upstate town of Geneseo, NY. The first time I found a CD of the album Bee Thousand by his band Guided by Voices in our station’s archive, I was mesmerized by the poorly recorded but insanely catchy batch of tunes with names like “Gold Star for Robot Boy” and “Kicker of Elves.” They were equally weird and familiar at the same time. I had never heard anything else like it.

Hoboken residents can stream or download songs from several of Guided by Voices albums from Freegal or those who prefer CDs can request their albums including Please be HonestLet’s Go Eat the Factory, and a Best Of.

Cutter does a great job describing Pollard’s creative process. Many of his song titles and lyrics come from nicknames he created for his students while he was an elementary school teacher in Dayton. He was obsessed with certain expressions and the sound of words, as seen in some of his most famous songs like “14 Cheerleader Coldfront” and “The Gold Heart Mountaintop Queen Directory.” He would often wake up and write several songs while drinking his morning coffee and a dozen more before dinner. A dash of mania, a hyper-competitive personality, and a classic Midwestern work ethic made it possible.

The other great joy of reading Pollard’s biography is experiencing the sheer determination he had to become a successful musician. His wife, parents, and the local music scene in Dayton all hated his early attempts at performing and encouraged him constantly to quit. Pollard didn’t even experience any level of fame until he was in his late 30s and had left a 14-year career as an elementary school teacher. By constantly firing his band mates and having the occasional fistfight, Pollard finally was able to put together his “classic” lineup for a band that would become loved by college rock nerds like myself throughout the county. Cutter’s book is an entertaining read for both fans and people who are just curious about the creative process of an artist with a genius level of output.

Written by
Karl Schwartz
Young Adult Librarian

Well-Researched Works for History Buffs: The Revenant, Frederick the Great, and 1491

25 Jul

Do you open a book to the notes and bibliography and marvel at the 150+ pages of thorough research?  Will this assure you that this massive compendium holds all wonderful magic you crave?  18th century Prussian battles? 15th century pre-Columbian Americas?  Yes please!  How about we add a novel with its own short, but concise, bibliography that entices the reader with a fictionalized recreation of a story shrouded in myth but rooted in fact?  Sign me up!

The Revenant
by Michael Punke
revenant
Michael Mann’s The Last of the Mohicans changed my life.  I was seven and it was revelatory; a work of fiction with an historical backdrop.  That being said, when I saw trailers for Alexandro Iñárritu’s The Revenant I was all in. Based on a true story?  Oh yeah!  But, wait, there’s a book!  How did I get so lucky?  Michael Punke delivers a page-turning tale of revenge and survival in a brutal frontier landscape.  Set in 1823, Punke recounts a fictionalized version of the tale of Hugh Glass, a very real fur-trapper who was left for dead after a grizzly attack in the wilderness.  Because Michael Punke researched his subject masterfully, the reader easily finds themselves absorbed in an authentic feeling epic, complete with Hugh Glass’ surprising back story of piracy and his life among the Pawnee Native Americans.  Have you already seen the movie?  Don’t worry, this book has a few surprises for you.  Besides being available in print, HPL resident card holders can also borrow it as an ebook from eLibraryNJ or as an ebook from eBCCLS.

Frederick the Great: King of Prussia
by Tim Blanning
FredericktheGreat
Do you love court intrigue?  Do you love 18th-century European battles?  How exactly does a middling kingdom in central Europe rise to first-rate power in the course of one man’s 46 year reign?  Tim Blanning delivers the authoritative English-language compendium of Frederick the Great in a biography that elucidates the enigmatic King of Prussia through meticulous research that includes a vast array of personal letters.  Complete with detailed maps of battle-lines and marvelous illustrated depictions of the illustrious King’s statues, palaces, and portraits.  Wonderfully accessible, the author instructs readers while keeping them enticed in this top-down analysis of Frederick the Great.  You can borrow it in print from HPL or as an ebook from eBCCLS.

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
by Charles C. Mann
1491_Mann
While Charles C. Mann promises a lot with this title, he certainly delivered with precision an invigorating and revelatory history of the people of the pre-Columbus Americas.  Mann’s 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus provided me with a re-education in a subject that most people, myself included, have a tenuous grasp of.  Mann expertly uses archaeology, science, and great writing to compel the reader to question everything they thought they knew about Native American history in the tens of thousands of years before Europeans “discovered” the Americas.  One of my favorite discoveries was finding out that Charles C. Mann wrote a second book, 1493, that I will be suggesting in the future.  You can borrow 1491 in print from HPL or as an ebook from eBCCLS.

Written By:
Adam Cricco
Library Assistant

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