Tuesday, July 17, 2001

It's been far too long since I've posted, but I'm still without a computer. At this point, they still haven't even gotten back to me with a final estimate of how much ransom they'll extort from me to fix the damn thing and get it back to me. This would be a good time for those of you who enjoy these ramblings to notice the PayPal tip jar near the bottom of the page.

Greg Kihn Live! - During the summer free concerts abound in the Bay Area. San Jose holds theirs Thursday nights, and the season usually kicks off with local favorite Greg Kihn. Greg Kihn? I hear some of you ask. Remember such hits as Jeopardy ("Our love's in jeopardy, baby") or The Breakup Song ("They don't write 'em like that anymore") from the late 70's through the mid-80's? That's the guy.

These days Kihn is a morning DJ on the San Jose classic rock station, and the author of several horror novels. He also keeps the band together and plays a few gigs each year. And, believe it or not, he still puts on a hell of a great live show. These days the band features Greg's son, Rye, on lead guitar - the best lead guitarist he's ever had in the band.

The show is an interesting mix of music, with them as likely to play a Rolling Stones song as something from their own prolific history. They played for at least two hours (we got there a little late) to a wildly enthusiastic audience. The presence of booths selling pizza and beer certainly helped the atmosphere on a beautiful cool Bay Area summer night.

Over the weekend (following Greg Kihn) I finished up The Fourth Hand, the new John Irving novel. I really enjoyed it, it kept my attention and I never once thought of putting it aside. Still, it's certainly not his best. In many ways I think part of the problem was that it's simpler than most of Irving's work. It's not only shorter (about 300 pages, compared to his usual 500), but there are far fewer characters populating the pages than usual. And only one of them dies, and you pretty much know he has to die early on, or there can be no story. (Most John Irving novels track multiple generations of characters, and include many emotional death scenes.)

In some ways, I'm tempted to say that he was spoiled by his recent Oscar win for the screenplay to "Cider House Rules." The simpler, almost stripped down, nature of The Fourth Hand reminded me of how one might adapt one of his longer novels into a cinematic form.

For John Irving fans, the book may be a bit of a let-down, but it's still probably better than 95% of what you'll find on the shelves of your local book seller today. Recommendation: If it interests you, certainly read it. But if you want to know what all the hype is about John Irving, you're better off with "Cider House Rules," or "A Prayer for Owen Meaney," or "A Widow for One Year," or the original classic "The World According to Garp."

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