Forrest Wickman of Slate reports for NY1 on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in "The Book Reader."
Two new books look deep into the history of two of the greatest musical acts of the 1980s.
Tony Fletcher's "A Light That Never Goes Out", published by Crown, is a comprehensive biography of the alternative rock band The Smiths. And I mean comprehensive. After describing that fateful first meeting between singer and lyricist Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr, the book flashes all the way back to the 18th century for a 200-year history of Manchester, the English city that gave birth to the band. It's a tad obsessive, but the 630-page book eventually comes back around to that meeting about 180 pages later, when the band begins writing music.
"I Would Die 4 U", by Touré, and out this month from Atria, might not be as exhaustive a work of journalism, but at 150 pages, it's a great starter for anyone interested in the appeal of the artist (still known as) Prince. The subtitle of the book is "Why Prince Became an Icon", and this does a remarkably good job of summarizing the thrust of the book. Prince, Touré argues, connected on a deep, spiritual level with Generation X.
The book is less about the technical decisions that make up his music than about how he became a redemptive figure for a whole generation born into sexual fear, religious doubt and divorce. Plus, it has an all-time great anecdote about the time the author challenged His Royal Purpleness to a game of basketball.
Both are rewarding reads for fans of any generation, but those not-so obsessed with The Smiths might want to skip those two chapters about Manchester.
Read a full review of "A Light That Never Goes Out", and many other great books about music, on the Slate Book Review, slate.com/books