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Category: Music

Whitney Houston's death spurs deluge of new Kindle e-book titles


As news of pop star Whitney Houston's death began to circulate, a number of enterprising authors sat down and got busy at their keyboards. The fastest workers managed to publish their Kindle e-books the very day Houston died: six new titles about her in Amazon's Kindle store bear Feb. 11 as their publication date. By the time the weekend was over, another eight had been added to the list.

The 14 newly-published Whitney Houston Kindle e-books range in price from 99 cents to $9.99. There is a book comprised of fan tributes, a 10-page handwriting analysis, a German edition of a gossipy book about Houston and ex-husband Bobby Brown, and a book of new poems about her. Of course, there are a couple of unauthorized biographies, hastily stitched together. In fact, one is made up entirely of Wikipedia pages about Houston, her films, and her music; author Ira Krakow ("The Lady Gaga Story," "The Amy Winehouse Story") charges $3.99 for it.

So, does the gimmick work? None of the 14 newly minted Houston books have cracked Amazon's Top 100 paid Kindle e-books list. But they do seem to be finding a place.

The most popular -- "Whitney Houston We Love You Forever" by Jean-Pierre Hombach -- reached No. 16 in the subcategory of music biographies, behind memoirs by Steven Tyler, Keith Richards and Sammy Hagar. Hombach is a high-volume author of unauthorized, unofficial e-book biographies, primarily about musicians, including Bob Marley, Justin Beiber and Beyonce. Monday afternoon it had slipped to No. 18.

It must be pretty difficult to write a book -- even if you're just reformatting some Wikipedia pages -- in a few hours. But the fact that those books have not yet risen to the top of the e-book charts may signal that readers want something more. When it comes to a book about the ill-fated pop singer, they may be ready to wait for one that can tell the whole story.


The gift of Gaga

Sammy Hagar's wacky and brutal memoir

John Lennon's books on the anniversary of his death

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Whitney Houston performs in 2000. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Lil Wayne will publish book penned inside the pen

The diaries that rapper Lil Wayne kept while in jail will form the basis of a new book, publisher Grand Central announced Thursday. Lil Wayne spent eight months in jail on Rikers Island in 2010; he had pleaded guilty to attempted weapons possession.

"We are thrilled to be publishing Wayne’s prison memoir," executive editor Ben Greenberg said in a release. "He kept detailed journals of his inner and outer life while he was on Rikers Island, and they certainly tell a story.  They are revealing."

Weezy's time at Rikers included a month in solitary confinement for possession of "music contraband" -- headphones and a charger for an MP3 player.

The Grammy winner's memoir, "Gone Till November," will be released Nov. 28 -- just in time for the 2012  Christmas shopping season.


Amanda Knox looking for book deal

Tom Sizemore to write memoir of drug addiction and recovery

What should you give Jay-Z and Beyoncé's baby? Books. Oprah did.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Lil Wayne performs on "MTV Unplugged." Credit: Frank Micelotta / MTV / PictureGroup.

What should you give Jay-Z and Beyoncé's baby? Books. Oprah did.

Little Blue Ivy Carter, born Saturday night in New York City, has certain advantages in this world. Her parents, Jay-Z and Beyoncé, are rich and famous, wildly talented and superhumanly gorgeous.

So what do you give the baby born with everything? Books -- if you're Oprah, that is.

The Insider reports, "The Insider has learned that the TV titan [Oprah] sent Beyonce and Jay-Z's daughter a trunk full of children's books." Which books, exactly, were included? That's still a mystery.

But if Oprah wanted, she could have sent several trunks full of books. According to Us Weekly, Beyoncé and Jay-Z built a 2,200-square foot nursery for their daughter in their apartment in TriBeCa.

With all the crazy gifts given to the baby -- say, a $7,000 pink Swarovsky crystal-encrusted tub -- Oprah's seems pretty sensible. Heck, even if she'd had the trunk full of books lined in sable, and delivered by elephant, it wouldn't be the craziest thing that had happened in Blue Ivy Carter's two-day-old life.


Beyonce's baby Blue Ivy Carter gets a song from her daddy Jay-Z

Beyonce has a baby girl! She and Jay-Z welcome Blue Ivy Carter

Beyonce throws a 'Party' with sister Solange, Kelly Rowland [Video]

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter in December and Beyoncé in November. Credits: Charles Sykes / Associated Press, left; Jemal Countess / Getty Images, right.  

Elton John to publish AIDS book, 'Love is the Cure'

Elton John is set to publish a book focused on AIDS: "Love is the Cure: Ending the Global AIDS Epidemic"
Elton John, the flamboyant pop star, is set to publish a book focused on AIDS and his knowledge of the disease. "Love is the Cure: Ending the Global AIDS Epidemic" is scheduled to be published in July; it is Sir Elton's first book.

During the early part of John's career, he was known as a singer with outrageous fashion sense, crazy glasses, a rocking piano and a string of No. 1 records. He hit big with lively songs such as "Bennie and the Jets," "Crocodile Rock," and "Honky Cat" and appeared as the pinball wizard's nemesis in "Tommy." He also went to the top of the charts with the more subdued "Rocket Man" and the ballads "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" and "Daniel." Since the '80s, John has had hits on the mellow side, with "Tiny Dancer," "Candle in the Wind" (two hit versions, one for Marilyn Monroe, later for Princess Diana) and film and theater successes.

The singer was an early supporter of efforts to fight AIDS, founding the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992. He has held annual fundraising concerts, and the foundation has donated nearly a quarter of a billion dollars to fight AIDS worldwide.

That said, the book promises to be more personal than polemic. Publisher Little, Brown writes in a release:

"Love is the Cure" will be the very personal story of Sir Elton's life during the AIDS epidemic, including his agony at seeing friend after friend perish needlessly. Through his stories of close encounters with people like Ryan White, Freddie Mercury, and many others, he will convey the personal toll AIDS has taken on his life -- and his infinite determination to stop its spread.

Sir Elton writes, "This is a disease that must be cured not by a miraculous vaccine, but by changing hearts and minds, and through a collective effort to break down social barriers and to build bridges of compassion. Why are we not doing more? This is a question I have thought deeply about, and wish to answer -- and to help change -- by writing this book.

The audiobook edition will be read by John.

The release of "Love is the Cure" will coincide with the 2012 XIX International AIDS Conference, being held in Washington. Little, Brown said it will donate 10% of its profits from the book to help fight AIDS.

Since its discovery in 1991, AIDS has claimed 60 million lives, and 34 million people are living with HIV, the virus that causes the disease.


John Lennon's books

Amy Winehouse book by her dad

Sammy Hagar's wacky and brutal memoir

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Elton John with Elizabeth Taylor at his AIDS benefit concert in 2001. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

Sound of 'The Hunger Games': Taylor Swift, Decemberists

The first single from the soundtrack for "The Hunger Games," a collaboration between T. Bone Burnett, Taylor Swift and the Civil Wars titled "Safe and Sound," debuted Monday on iTunes and quickly became a top-10 hit
Legendary producer T. Bone Burnett has been working with a mix of musicians to create the soundtrack for "The Hunger Games" movie. The first single, a collaboration between Burnett, Taylor Swift and the Civil Wars titled "Safe and Sound," debuted Monday on iTunes and quickly became a top-10 hit.

Deadline Hollywood reports that Arcade Fire's Win Butler and Regine Chassagne also collaborated with Burnett on songs for the film's soundtrack. The Decemberists contributed an original tune, "One Engine." 

The film stars Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, a teen warrior in a post-apocalyptic America enlisted to fight other teens in a life-and-death television show called "The Hunger Games." It's based on Suzanne Collins' popular young adult novel, the first in a trilogy.

The teen theme makes Swift seem like a perfect fit, and early commenters on iTunes agree. The film is scheduled to come to screens in March 2012.


"The Hunger Games" movie preview [Video]

Take a look at "The Hunger Games" trailer [Video]

"The Hunger Games" finds its Katniss in Jennifer Lawrence. Is she the right choice?

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in "The Hunger Games." Credit: Murray Close / Lionsgate

John Lennon's books on the anniversary of his death

John Lennon died 31 years ago today after he was shot at the Dakota in New York by Mark David Chapman. As a member of the Beatles and a solo artist, Lennon was one of the 20th century's most important musicians. His influence spread beyond music to culture, religious inquiry, politics and art.

He also wrote books. "In His Own Write" and "A Spaniard in the Works" were small, witty collections of poetry, verse and Lennon's own illustrations, written early in his career. When they were reissued in a single edition last year, David Ulin wrote:

Well before he met Yoko Ono, John Lennon had a habit of going his own way. As early as 1964 -- at the height of Beatlemania -- he published "In His Own Write," a collection of off-kilter poems and stories with line drawings; he followed it the next year with "A Spaniard in the Works." Both books are satirical, full of whimsy, but also marked by that distinctive  Lennon edge. "Sir Alice Doubtless-Whom," he writes in "We must not forget ... the General Erection" (a biting piece inspired by Harold Wilson's election as prime minister), "was -- quote -- 'bitherly dithapointed' but managed to keep smirking on his 500,000 acre estate in Scotland with a bit of fishing and that."...

"In His Own Write" and "A Spaniard in the Works" are of a piece but different. The first is loose and off the cuff, while the latter features longer, more ambitious writings and wordplay in the vein of Edward Lear. Like Lear, Lennon relies on nonsense as a strategy and composes doggerel and silly stories, although he also can be quite pointed. For example, the poem "Our Dad" -- which begins, "It wasn't long before old dad / Was cumbersome -- a drag. / He seemed to get the message and / Began to pack his bag" -- seems to speak directly to his own father, who ran off when Lennon was a boy, only to reemerge in the wake of the Beatles' rise. The drawings, meanwhile, are reminiscent of James Thurber, with their rounded figures and exaggerated sense of irony. In one, a group of men hold a brightly lit dog aloft like a lantern; in another, a blind beggar stands next to a man who wears a sign that reads, "I can see quite clearly."

Over the years, fans have sought to frame Lennon's writing as Joycean, for its embrace of puns and idiosyncratic spellings, a la "Finnegans Wake." That's a stretch, not least because Lennon was never anything but accessible, whereas Joyce prided himself on being willfully obscure. More to the point is how Lennon immerses himself in the language, less interested in the meaning than in the sound of the words. This, of course, is as it should be; he was a musician first, after all. Still, with "In His Own Write" and "A Spaniard in the Works," we see a different side of his expression: exuberant and playful but with a fire all its own.

The 2010 edition of "In His Own Write" and "A Spaniard In the Works" includes two introductions: one by Paul McCartney and the other by Yoko Ono.

Asked about Lennon, Ono told the Vancouver Sun, “John was about making the world a better place. He sang Gimme Some Truth, so when I see all the activism out there today, I feel like we will turn the corner soon.”

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: John Lennon and Yoko Ono with reporters at a "Bed-In for Peace" in Amsterdam. Credit: Associated Press

The gift of Gaga


Amid the torrent of images of her alter ego in elaborate makeup and futuristic fashions, the stripped-bare face of Stefani Joanne Angelina seems startling.

The Grammy award -winning singer has teamed up with outré photographer Terry Richardson for a book of photographs, “Lady Gaga X Terry Richardson” “(Grand Central Publishing, $50), a showcase of more than 350 color and black-and-white photos taken on a nearly yearlong global odyssey.

Richardson, known for his risqué, clothing-optional style, captured all sides of the chameleon-like pop star, commencing with the 2010 Lollapalooza festival, continuing to her unforgettable egg-encased arrival at the 2011 Grammys and on through to the final show of her Monster Ball tour.

It’s a not-for-kids picture book with a sententious foreword by Gaga. The rest is pure, unadulterated visual dialogue. Fans won’t be disappointed with extreme behind-the-scenes and concert shots of the expected snarls and outlandish get-ups. Included are images of Gaga’s it's-what's-for-dinner meat  dress and her poses with Cher, the godmother of attention-grabbing, barely-there Vegas showgirl couture. But most revealing are the black-and-white images with no fuss, no props or theatrical makeup in the way. It’s when the singer takes a moment from the madness, pulls back her hair and ditches the costumes, that we see the real girl who is the mastermind behind the monster.

View a gallery of photos from Lady Gaga x Terry Richardson

Images: From the book LADY GAGA x TERRY RICHARDSON. Working. Photo by Terry Richardson/Grand Central Publishing.

- Liesl Bradner

Amy Winehouse book by her dad: Ouch


Exactly what caused the death of Amy Winehouse in July has not yet been determined. But one thing that is known: The singer's father will write a memoir about his daughter, to be published in the U.S. by HarperCollins, the publisher announced Monday. Mitch Winehouse's "Amy, My Daughter" is expected to be published in summer 2012.

It's hard to imagine what sorrows Mitch Winehouse has endured. His very talented daughter struggled publicly with substance abuse and died July 23 at the too-young age of 27. Music fans miss her; he certainly must too.

But of the many forms that mourning can take, a memoir of a lost daughter seems ill-advised at best. What kind of perspective can Amy Winehouse's father have? How can he be expected to deal with her difficulties, her proclivities? In a 2007 interview with the Guardian, not long after her album "Back to Black" came out, Winehouse said she wanted her superpower to be "supersexuality"; her one-word answer to "How do you relax?" was "sex"; and her most unappealing habit was "being an abusive drunk." A straightforward biography would be hard enough -- but one from her father?

Instead, I'd like to nominate Russell Brand to write it. His memoirial to Amy Winehouse, which appeared in the Guardian sparkled with intelligence, insight and empathy.

When I first met her around Camden she was just some twit in a pink satin jacket shuffling round bars with mutual friends, most of whom were in cool indie bands or peripheral Camden figures Withnail-ing their way through life on impotent charisma....

From time to time I'd bump into Amy she had good banter so we could chat a bit and have a laugh, she was a character but that world was riddled with half-cut, doped-up chancers, I was one of them, even in early recovery I was kept afloat only by clinging to the bodies of strangers so Winehouse, but for her gentle quirks didn't especially register....

It was only by chance that I attended a Paul Weller gig at the Roundhouse that I ever saw her live.

I arrived late and as I made my way to the audience through the plastic smiles and plastic cups I heard the rolling, wondrous resonance of a female vocal. Entering the space I saw Amy on stage with Weller and his band; and then the awe. The awe that envelops when witnessing a genius. From her oddly dainty presence that voice, a voice that seemed not to come from her but from somewhere beyond even Billie and Ella, from the font of all greatness. A voice that was filled with such power and pain that it was at once entirely human yet laced with the divine. My ears, my mouth, my heart and mind all instantly opened. Winehouse. Winehouse? Winehouse! That twerp, all eyeliner and lager dithering up Chalk Farm Road under a back-combed barnet, the lips that I'd only seen clenching a fishwife fag and dribbling curses now a portal for this holy sound.

Proceeds from "Amy, My Daughter" will go to the Amy Winehouse Foundation, which Mitch Winehouse formed to help young people in need.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photos: Left, Amy Winehouse performs in 2007. Credit: Claire Greenway / Getty Images. Right, Mitch Winehouse at his daughter's funeral. Credit: Lefteris Pitarakis / Associated Press

Believe it: Bob Dylan is favored to win Nobel Prize in literature


According to Ladbrokes, Bob Dylan is the odds-on favorite to win the Nobel Prize for literature. The British betting house has Dylan as the top possibility, running at 5-to-1 odds, ahead of Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, who is in second place, and Syrian poet Adonis in third.

The Nobel Committee never releases the names of writers who are under consideration, so Ladbrokes' list is simply speculation.

Dylan is a unique figure on the list that Ladbrokes posted for bettors. Most are international writers known for a significant body of literary work; Bob Dylan is a rock star, a musician and cultural polymath who can count a successful memoir among his artistic achievements.

Full coverage: 2011 Nobel Prize winners

When Ladbrokes initially posted the list, he was tied for dead last, with odds at 100-to-1. He lagged far behind well-known bestselling writers such as Michael Ondaatje ("The English Patient"), Ian McEwan ("Atonement," "Saturday") and Umberto Eco ("The Name of the Rose").

But as the day of the Nobel announcement has come closer -- the Literature Laureate will be announced early Thursday morning -- Dylan has made his way up the chart. He was not yet in the top 10 six days ago, but by Wednesday he was shouldering his way into the top five. Now, he's there at No. 1.

He remains ahead of Thomas Transtromer, an 80-year-old poet from Sweden who might be considered a hometown favorite for the Nobel. He's ahead of 78-year-old Korean poet Ko Un, who has been imprisoned for his writings. He's ahead of reclusive American author Thomas Pynchon, who has won a National Book Award, and Irish writer John Banville, who has won the Booker Prize.

Bob Dylan may be the odds-on favorite to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, but he would not be the best choice. If he wins, then, it's all over now, baby blue.


Handicapping the Nobel Prize in literature: a guide

2010 Nobel Prize in Literature is awarded to Mario Vargas Llosa

Herta Muller wins 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Bob Dylan performs in 2011. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

What should Rod Stewart call his memoir? [Poll]

Singer Rod Stewart has signed with Random House to write his memoir.
Singer Rod Stewart has signed with Random House to write his memoir. It's the first autobiography from the 66-year-old rock star; the book is scheduled to be published in the U.S. and Britain in 2012.

"I thought long and hard before committing to write my book," Stewart said in a statement. "It is a funny old thing telling my life story but I truly intend to hold nothing back. I’ve had quite a life, known some extraordinary people and had some amazing experiences. I’ve waited all this time, until my 50th year in the business and realize I can no longer put it off. Forget skeletons in the closet; this one’s going to be socks and knickers under the bed."

Stewart may be ready to strip off the socks and knickers, but he hasn't yet come up with a title. What do you think Rod Stewart should call his book?


The Reading Life: Ellen Willis' vinyl deeps

Sammy Hagar's wacky and brutal memoir

Rick Springfield pleads not guilty to post-Festival of Books DUI

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Rod Stewart performs in 2010. Credit: Ariel Schalit / Associated Press


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