Thursday Book Reviews: Scar Tissue, Christine

SCAR TISSUE

By Anthony Keidis & Larry Sloman

The autobiography of Red Chilli Peppers front man is exactly what you would expect from a wild rocker’s life story. And yet it’s more. Keidis had a fascinating childhood, the son of actor Blackie Dammet and god son of Sonny Bono. Despite Bono’s efforts to steer him straight early on, the wild partying life was Keidis’ destiny, hanging out with his dad in the Rainbow Room around the likes of Keith Moon and John Bonham. Even his adolescence is a tale of excess and abandon.

But it’s when he hooks up with Flea and original Chilli Peppers guitarist Hillel Slovak that Keidis starts to find a purpose in his life. Upon the death of Slovak from many of the same habits, Keidis found the motivation to get clean, though it would take many trips to rehab for him to unlock the combination that now lets him keep addiction at bay. Along the way, his binging pattern actually worked to the advantage of other addicts, with Keidis quite often coming out his own relapse in time to get someone else pushed into rehab. You feel his pain as Hillel Slovak wastes away to nothing, as the Chili Peppers have to fire Dave Navarro, who is otherwise one of the coolest and most gracious guitarists in all of rock, and trying to draw Navarro’s predecessor John Frusciante back from the brink.

But more than that, if you can get past the repetition brought on by the relapses late in the book, you get a deep sense of what makes the Chili Peppers really tick, the sheer brilliance of Flea and his various partners – Slovak, Frusciante, and Navarro, and the calm, workman-like center that is drummer Chad Smith. These are guys who absolutely love what they do for a living, and they somehow manage to subdue their personal demons long enough everytime to make some of the best music of the last 25 years.

On the downside, the audio version of this sounds like it was recorded on a laptop using Garage Band or Audacity and a cheap microphone. I got caught up in Keidis’ story and Rider Strong’s delivery that I eventually ignored it, but I expected better production from Phoenix Audio.

CHRISTINE

By Stephen King

I’m not sure which I like better, Stephen King’s tale of a 1958 Plymouth Fury possessed by its enraged dead owner or John Carpenter’s movie of the same name where said Plymouth comes off the assembly line with a custom paint job and the optional demon already installed.

Obviously, Carpenter altered the premise for his own purposes, but it worked in its own way, the movie clearly based on a Stephen King story. But it is the novel of which I want to speak. This is one of the novels King says he wrote in the so-called “lost years,” when his personal habits fogged his memory of working on certain novels. (Cujo, which works for many of the same reasons Christine does, is another one.)

A quick recap. Arnie Cunningham, a sixteen-year-old outcast, spots a battered 1958 Plymouth on his way home from work one day. Over his parents objections, Arnie buys the car and sets about restoring it. As he does, his family and friends begin to notice disturbing changes. He is obsessed with the car. And despite the haphazard way he does repairs, he restores it to mint condition in record time. When the local thugs trash his car in return for some unexpected humiliation, Christine, the car, reveals her true nature. One by one, the boys who destroyed the car are slaughtered by this driverless car. Soon no one is safe from Christine’s wrath.

One of the things King does very well is give a sense of place, even when he’s making up a town, like the mythical Harrison College in Firestarter. Obviously, Castle Rock, Derry, and the rest of King’s imaginary Maine are as real to some people as their own hometown. But Libertyille, Pennsylvania feels off. A Pittsburgh exurb, it lacks the late seventies despair of most Rust Belt towns. Plus, the characters root  for the Phillies, which is sacrilege for anyone west of Harrisburg. On the up-side, Christine is one of King’s most terrifying monsters, without any redeeming qualities, a metal incarnation of pure rage and pure evil.

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