Commando: The Autobiography of Johnny Ramone

Johnny Ramone. Abrams Image, $24.95 (176p) ISBN 978-0-8109-9660-1
Writing with a voice as loud and direct as the music his band would be known for, late guitarist Johnny Ramone (née John Cummings) recounts his lengthy rock and roll career in this eye-catching and readable memoir. A devout Republican who had no qualms with licensing songs for beer ads, and whose post-show ritual was heading to the nearest 7-11 for milk and cookies, Cummings was a true iconoclast, working tirelessly to promote The Ramones and maintain the band's brand identity. All the hard work paid off—The Ramones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, and their fan base is as strong as ever. Longtime listeners looking for dirt will get some of that here—Johnny wore silver lamé pants for some of the band's early shows at CBGB; though credited, Dee Dee Ramone didn't actually play on many of the band's later albums due to substance abuse—but the thrust of Cummings's story is his own take on history. Whether he's talking about censorship, blowing off a Saturday Night Live appearance due to a last-minute cancellation by the Sex Pistols ("We don't substitute for anybody"), or his battle with the cancer that would claim his life, Cummings' blunt approach is sure to give fans a greater appreciation for the guitarist and his legendary band. 60 color & b/w photos. (Apr.)   Butterfly in the Typewriter: The Short, Tragic Life of John Kennedy Toole and the Remarkable Story of A Confederacy of Dunces Cory MacLauchlin Da Capo, $29 (288p) ISBN 978-0-306-82040-3 In this thoughtful and thorough biography, MacLauchlin recounts the short and tragic life of John Kennedy Toole, author of A Confederacy of Dunces—a book cast aside by publishers during the author's life, but finally published and awarded the Pulitzer Prize after his suicide at 31-years-old. Born in New Orleans in 1937, Toole was the only son of a "pure" Creole mother and an Irish immigrant father, and was a precocious student growing up and at Tulane. MacLauchlin tracks Toole from his Cajun upbringing, to his graduate work at Columbia in New York City at a time when the likes of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg were basking in "newfound literary fame," and to his being drafted and stationed in Puerto Rico as an English teacher in 1960, during which assignment his book began to take shape. Unfortunately, finding a publisher for the idiosyncratic comic novel proved difficult; Simon & Schuster editor Robert Gottleib took interest in Toole and his work, but remained unconvinced that publishing A Confederacy of Dunces was a tenable business move. Meanwhile, Toole's mental health rapidly deteriorated, a process abetted by his work on the novel. The final days of the young writer's life are the hardest to recreate, but MacLauchlin does an admirable job distinguishing facts from speculations as he recounts the events leading up to Toole's suicide on a lonesome Mississippi roadside. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/23/2012
Release date: 04/01/2012
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 176 pages - 978-84-15996-05-7
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