There’s something charming about the simplicity of Dave Hofer’s Perpetual Conversion, an effort that resembles a loving metal magazine instead of flowery memoir. Though it’s hard to truly call the book a memoir, as it’s mostly excerpts from interviews with Dan Lilker and his cohorts, Hofer paints a simple picture of man who loved metal seemingly above everything else. As the bassist for such metal greats as Anthrax, Brutal Truth, and Stormtroopers Of Death among others, Perpetual Conversion lets Lilker be the star of the show. While Lilker’s well respected in metal circles, he’s the sort of musician that only diehards know by name, as he’s moved from one extreme metal band to the next, pushing him further away from fame in the process. The book moves chronologically, allowing Lilker to go deep about his experiences in each and every one of his bands. With his friends and assorted bandmates occasionally chiming in, Perpetual Conversion paints a picture of the lanky Lilker as a metal enthusiast happy to grind it out in tiny clubs instead of selling out in search of stardom. [David Anthony]
In today’s fast-paced dating world, who’s got time to sit down and read a book about modern romance? It’s hard to believe that Aziz Ansari had time to write one, though he did have some help from sociologist Eric Klinenberg, who’s written well-received books on living alone and a Chicago heat wave. And though Ansari’s book is full of facts and figures—some incredibly surprising—about the habits of modern daters, it’s also pretty damn funny. And on the audiobook, he’s able to mix long passages about his research—and there was a lot—with some jokes and asides. And you can listen to it while swiping right on Tinder, which is a lot harder if you’ve got your eyes on the book. [Josh Modell]
I’ve been a fan of online author and media critic Jacob Clifton for years, ever since I stumbled onto his Television Without Pity reviews for the reimagined Battlestar Galactica. Back then, Clifton’s thoughtful, digressive, and beautiful approach to exploring the show’s philosophical underpinnings was a major part in my maturation as a critic (and as a person), instilling in me the belief that the art we consume deserves to be treated to serious thought, regardless of its outer veneer. (This extremely rewarding development has, of course, been deeply annoying to everyone who’s ever tried to have a conversation with me about “disposable” media over the last 10 years, but that’s life for you.) After TWOP shut down, Clifton drifted over to Gawker for a time, before setting out on his own as an author of fiction. Since then, he’s released three major works: a “found footage” novel, While You Are Over There, and two ongoing serials, Outriding and Wasted Beauty. I’ve read and loved all three, but Wasted Beauty is the one I want to spill some ink on now.
The premise: To the outside world, Estelle Harlowe is a typical Hollywood “personality,” the kind of person who’s commonly denounced for “being famous for being famous.” She drinks, she does drugs, and she gets into all sorts of media-friendly escapades, seemingly engineered to incite eye-rolling and envy in equal measure. In truth, however, Estelle is much more than she seems: a princess of the Winter Court of Faerie, she’s spent the last few years desperately spinning public attention, media interest, and a bit of magic to stop herself from getting dragged to hell as part of a covenant between her parents and the demon lords, signed before she was even born. It’s an intensely high-concept idea, in a way that hints at some of Clifton’s ongoing obsessions: the meaning of fame, the misogyny inherent in celebrity media, and the ultimate struggle to hold onto your own personhood when it’s getting attacked on all sides.
The real appeal of the story, though, is Estelle herself, a simulacrum of the savvy, tough-as-nails operator we all suspect hides behind every seemingly vapid media queen. The story is told in first-person, and it’s a joy to live inside S’s head as she filters through possibilities, discards plans, and races to keep ahead of the various forces working to drag her down. The serialized nature of the story adds some extra heat, with the pleasure of the various anticipations and cliffhangers reminding you of why the format works so well on TV, and why it was once just as popular for written fiction. Wasted Beauty (and the rest of Clifton’s writing, including collections of some of his old TWOP essays) can be found in pay-what-you-want format on Gumroad. [William Hughes]