RaveLos Angeles Review of Books... you are in for a wild ride with Cool Town, Grace Elizabeth Hale’s hybrid ethnography-memoir. And even if Pylon and Love Tractor are old hat to you, Cool Town is still going to teach you a whole lot ... she toggles back and forth between relatively standard historical narration and memoiristic exploration, and even a little bit of sharp score-settling ... Hale is refreshingly up-front about the evolution of her own artistic and political subjectivity in Athens ... Hale’s attention to the local is thrilling ... One of the most fascinating—and certainly one of the knottiest—threads in the book has to do with the Southern identity formation that was so crucial to the Athens scene ... Hale mostly leaves race alone as a category of analysis, except for a broad claim that it is unlikely that African Americans would have found much appealing about the willful bohemianism of the scene. That is a compelling counterfactual that elides as much as it explains ... Cool Town makes a convincing—and blazingly readable—case for the arty youth of Athens having invented a generative new form of bohemian life and artistic creation that would exert an influence well beyond the environs of the university, the town, and the region ... another Athens-based band, The Mendoza Line, would release a dark and haunting record they called We’re All in This Alone. The strength of Grace Hale’s Cool Town is that she convinces us that, at least for a time, the bohemians of Athens, Georgia, gave the lie to that darkly ironic title.
Ryan H. Walsh
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksIn Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968, Ryan Walsh...treat[s] the work as a social text, an LP that can be \'read\' as a legible part of a career, a cultural moment, a scene, a product of an industry with recognizable protocols ... Walsh does a strong job of dramatizing the interpersonal tensions informing the album’s creation, adding grit and depth to a story often transmitted with a more facile investment in the notion of individual genius ... In this book, Walsh facilitates a long overdue reading of Morrison and his early work in the appropriate hardscrabble context ... It is a mistake, though, to imagine that Walsh intends for all of these smaller set pieces to add up to some master tale of \'How Astral Weeks Came to Be.\' This book works, rather, as a sort of decentered collective biography. Van Morrison is important to the larger story Walsh wants to tell about questers and malcontents in the Boston area, but really only as one signpost of the confusion of the moment — a miserable young man (a \'stranger in this world\' is what the narrator calls himself on Astral Weeks’s first song) struggling to find his own voice amid the cacophony.
PanThe Los Angeles Review of BooksThis strange book serves as a sort of de facto, if sadly perfunctory, update to The Family, Sanders’s magnum opus on the case ... Sharon Tate is a sadly faint echo of the lifework to which Sanders has dedicated so much time and deep thought: by page four Sanders has already written 'It is not known' and 'It is thought,' and the book never gets much more forceful than that.