Get Your Jareth On! in convo with the Bowie Book Club
  Conversations    January 4, 2018     Eric Larkin

 

You may have heard that Duncan Jones is pulling together a book club to go through his dad’s cool reading list, but there already is a Bowie Book Club (ok… there might be like… 100s of these things) – but these guys right here have been doing it for awhile and they’ve got a podcast and everything.

I’ve been in a couple abortive book clubs. You read one, maybe two books, then a few people don’t like the selection, then different folks don’t like the next selection – all of a sudden, no one is reading the same book, and the club dies. But this idea of having a specific list seems like genius. Folks know what they’re getting into from the beginning. And a book club going through that famous list of Bowie’s 100 faves?  Sign me up. 

 

 

Who are you and what exactly is the Bowie Book Club? Can anyone join?

Greg: We’re two friends who’ve had a book club for a really long time, who found a focus when they published the list of Bowie’s most influential books and used that as an excuse to start blabbering online about them.

Kristianne: And we encourage anyone to join in! We publish what book we’re going to read in advance, and anyone can participate on our Facebook page or Twitter.

Greg: Unfortunately, we can’t get everyone on the podcast, since the room we record in is kind of small.

photo of Kristianne and Greg

Bonus Question: If you had an actual Bowie Book ClubHouse, what would it look like? Would there be a dress code?

Greg: There would be open flames everywhere.

Kristianne: And everyone would have to wear an eyepatch.

Greg: Or Tina Turner wig and codpiece.

Kristianne: Get your Jareth on!

 

 

You’ve been a book club for over a decade, and only in 2016 decided to focus on Bowie’s top 100 books. How did you come together to start that initial book club? Did it have any particular focus?

Greg: I think we started the bookclub way back when because I wanted you to read Ulysses?

Kristianne: Right, I was back from living in Burma for the summer, and we were spending a lot of time in Irish bars and needed an excuse to keep going back to them. And then it became about reading the books that you’ve always meant to read but never got around to – I think we got through 30 or so books before we started on Bowie.

 

Sexual Personae book cover

I’m pretty intimidated by the Bowie book list. Who has 100 favorite books?! That’s a lot. My list would be like, “100 books I’ve read but remember nothing about” or “100 books I own for the sole purpose of impressing people.” How did you feel approaching the list? Are there any titles on there you’re dreading?  

Greg: In hindsight, there were a couple of books that were real stinkers. Like Maldoror.

Kristianne: I was kind of dreading the Bicameral Mind one. And I’m not looking forward the Camille Paglia one.

Greg: There’ll be a lot to talk about there. I’m psyched to read the comics on the list – Raw and Viz and Beano.

Kristianne: And to read Master and Margarita again!

Greg: Since we’re randomly choosing the books, it’s less intimidating in a way, since you don’t know what you’re going to get.

Kristianne: Otherwise, we would’ve read all the ones we liked first and then had all the stinkers at the end.

 

What’s your first David Bowie memory? What’s your favorite Bowie era/persona?

Greg: I remember seeing pictures from the Let’s Dance video in a magazine at the grocery store. We didn’t have cable, so I didn’t see the video itself til later. And hearing Space Oddity on classic rock radio all the time.

Kristianne: My first Bowie memory is seeing Labyrinth in fifth grade. And then I got Pin Ups and Scary Monsters at the thrift store downtown – you could actually find records at the thrift store then! For favorite persona…

Greg: The Tina Turner/Codpiece phase?

Kristianne: Yes! Labyrinth Bowie is dear to my heart.

 

David Bowie - Scary Monsters album cover

There are so many musicians who started in the 60s/70s – huge stars then – who became cultural relics. What do you think made David Bowie consistently engaging?

Kristianne: I think it’s his re-invention.

Greg: Each record was really different – even later in his career he was trying new things.

 

This is maybe really broad, but do you have any thoughts on how Bowie’s reading habits connected to his songwriting?

Greg: We just talked about this a bit in our most recent episode where we speculated that he was reading a lot of Orwell while writing Diamond Dogs.

Kristianne: I think there’s tons of references to literature in his lyrics. At the end of every episode we pick a song to go with the book, and a lot of times it’s because the lyrics have content from the book – there’s pieces of The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea in a number of his songs – or there’s ones like our Songlines episode where we picked Let’s Dance, not because the song matched up but because the imagery from the video fit.

Greg: There’s a great site called Pushing Ahead of the Dame (twitterthat goes into detail on each of his songs, including lyrics, that we use all the time – it’s like our bible.

 

Denis Villeneuve has said David Bowie was his first choice for Niander Wallace in Blade Runner 2049. This is crushing. Do any of his acting roles stand out to you? Are there any roles – in film or literature – you wish he’d done?

Kristianne: We should start this answer by pointing out that Greg has never seen ANY movie with David Bowie in it.

Greg: I saw Fire Walk With Me and that was good enough!

Kristianne: I watched Hunger SO MANY TIMES.

Greg: I think I would’ve liked him as Sherlock Holmes – he would’ve given that an interesting spin.

Kristianne: That’s interesting – I see him as more science-fiction than mystery.

Greg: And it’s interesting that there’s so little sci-fi on the book list.

Kristianne: I wonder what he would’ve done in a period piece like Remains of the Day or Room with a View. I want to see him in a movie with Tom Waits!

Greg: Like the Dracula with Tom Waits as Renfield and Bowie as Dracula! That would’ve been dope!

 

Any tips for folks who want to start a successful book club and/or podcast?

Greg: Define successful.

Kristianne: Only allow two people. Right? Limit the number of people because no one can ever agree on what book to read. Keep it small.

Greg: And do it with people you’re already hanging out with anyway. If you’re getting drinks with some people every few weeks, just throw some books in there.

Kristianne: For podcasting, we got a lot out of going to Podcon this year.

Greg: And a lot of their advice was just to get your phones out and start talking into them – don’t worry about having the right equipment. Get it out there and figure out what works.

Kristianne: But commit to doing it – and have a focus or framing like the Bowie book list for us that you can come back to.

Hawksmoor – Peter Ackroyd – book cover

 

What’s up next on the list? Any special plans for the club this year?

Kristianne: It’s exciting that David Bowie’s son, Duncan Jones, has said on Twitter that he wants to read through the list and is starting with Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd, so we’re going to do that next and read along with the community.

Greg: I’m super geeked to read that.

Kristianne: And then back to our random selection for the rest of 2018.

Greg: And we’ll be picking our books and announcing them on Twitter in the next couple weeks. 

 

 

 

 

Oh, you pretty things – you can join up and/or start your own, even if you’re an absolute beginner.

 

 

 

 

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