Wednesday, May 29, 2013

City Lights review of Tosh Berman's "Sparks-Tastic"

A review from City Lights from Garrett Caples:

When I last wrote I was previewing Tosh Berman’s upcoming appearance at City Lights in support of his brand-new memoir, Sparks-Tastic: Twenty-One Nights with Sparks in London (A Barnacle Book, 2013). Given the exigencies of scheduling—copies wouldn’t arrive from the printer until the night of the reading—I didn’t have the chance to read the book beforehand, so I took the opportunity to quiz Tosh on its contents based on my own recently acquired knowledge of the band, combined with the experience of having caught the opening night of the US leg of their Two Hands, One Mouth tour only a week or so earlier. Anyway, Tosh gave his reading and killed it, and I longed to read the entire thing by the end. And I did and holy shit, is this a great book! Berman has done an enviable thing. In the casual guise of a pop cultural meditation—a memoir about attending Sparks’ recreation of their entire catalog, album by album, including bonus tracks as encores, over the course of 21 nights in London in 2008, culminating in the debut of their new album, Exotic Creatures of the Deep—he has written one of those great French memoirs of desire like Breton’s Nadja (1928), and the fact that the object of desire in this case is a pop group in no way diminishes or trivializes Sparks-Tastic as an example of such writing. Certainly I can relate to the intense adolescent identification with one’s favorite music, and the fact that Sparks continually evolves made the group something that carried over into Berman’s adulthood. Because they all live in L.A., Tosh eventually meets both Ron and Russell Mael of Sparks separately, by chance, and becomes their friend. Thus Sparks’ decision to spend the better part of a month in London playing their entire corpus triggers something like a mid-life crisis in Berman; he can’t afford to, but he must go, and he vows to write a book about the experience to give this irrational decision just the slightest sheen of rationality. But too this adds the burden of expectation in order to court the fear of failure, and in this he confronts the essential creative/psychological demon of his existence: being the son of a famous artist, Wallace Berman. Tosh negotiates all this with a light touch, and there’s a passage concerning his failed attempt to learn the hairdressing trade at his worried father’s insistence that’s both poignant and hysterical, and has little overt relation to Sparks; yet Sparks provide a constant parallel across the length of his life, even as other choice bands (The Doors, Them, The NY Dolls) make fleeting cameos.

Only Sparks could have provoked the crisis in him that results in this book.

In honor of Berman’s achievement, I conducted a second interview, where I probe some of his biases about the Sparks oeuvre as revealed by Sparks-Tastic and air some of my own ongoing obsessions with the group.

And you can read the rest of the interview here:
Post a Comment