Friday, 30 September 2016 09:15

James Dean: Rebel Life

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Today marks the 61st anniversary of James Dean’s death. Actor, cultural icon and all round legend, it is not unrealistic to expect that the name James Dean will still be referenced in casual conversation for many years to come. 

But what was it exactly about this brooding Hollywood star that made him quite so legendary? Find out, as John Howlett uncovers the secrets of James Dean’s past, detailing his rise from a modest, country upbringing to the glamour of the silver screen. This biography includes interviews and quotations from the man himself, as well as conversations with close friends, family members and co-stars. 

In the opening chapter, Howlett covers the early years of the young ‘Jimmy’ Dean and his (slightly dysfunctional) Indiana childhood. Although bright and highly talented, Dean is portrayed by the author as a socially awkward outsider who struggled somewhat in school, both in terms of the social dynamic as well as a lack of application to academic subjects. Photos reveal a gawky-looking, bespectacled ‘Jimmy’ in his high school basketball team photos, an image that contrasts almost comically with the cool, edgy effortlessness that we have come to associate with James Dean. 

The author then focuses on James Dean’s acting career, including his most notable films East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause. The reader is given behind the scenes insight into the experience of working with Dean (both positive and negative!) through interviews with his contemporaries, including fellow actor and friend, Natalie Wood. 

John Howlett also addresses the ongoing ambiguity that surrounds James Dean’s sexuality. This has always been a subject of great intrigue for fans. Despite his relationships with various women, rumours of Dean’s alleged affairs with other men were often at the centre of media gossip, particularly at a time in which prevailing attitudes towards homosexuality were less than tolerant.

The final chapters explore the devastation of the doomed actor’s untimely death, at the age of 24. This includes an especially poignant extract from an interview with Natalie Wood. Wood talks of having dinner with a group of James’ friends that night: ‘We were talking about Jimmy’s lifestyle and Nick ventured the opinion that Jimmy wouldn’t live to thirty. We pooh-poohed the idea.’ Wood and her companions would have been crazy to think that this statement would come true that very same night…

James Dean: Rebel Life is an informative and well-written biography, and one I would certainly recommend. The writer manages to wipe away the gloss of Hollywood and offer the reader a more human side to James Dean, behind the chiselled jaw line and the smoky stare (so to speak). Even if you are, as I was, completely ignorant on the topic of all things related to James Dean, it still proves to be an interesting read and serves as the perfect tribute to one of Western popular culture’s greatest legends.

‘I don’t think I’m such an amazing person who needs to be written about’ - Amy Winehouse

We beg to differ…

September 14th marked the birth of the legendary musician, Amy Winehouse, who would have turned 33. Although her music was often overshadowed by her media representation as a troubled soul trapped in a drug driven cycle of self-destruction, Amy will always be remembered for her phenomenal talent, as well as her surprisingly down to earth attitude towards fame.

Amy is renowned, not only for her striking voice and musical ability, but also for her talent as a lyricist: it is perhaps the blend of the two elements that made her music so unforgettable. There is such genuine quality to her music that provides a refreshing alternative to the constant stream of sugar coated commercial pop. Amy Winehouse wrote on a variety of different topics and aspects of life, although she is perhaps best known for her songs on love and heartbreak, drawing deeply from her own personal experiences. In celebration of Amy’s incredible legacy, we thought we’d share with you a small selection of her greatest and most relatable lyrics.

1. ‘We only said goodbye with words/ I died a hundred times’

Taken from the song Back to Black, which describes a particularly difficult break up, there is a beautiful simplicity to these particular lines that so accurately capture the pain and emptiness that come with ending a relationship.

2. ‘For you I was the flame/ Love is a losing game’

Much like Back to Black, these lyrics to the song Love is a Losing Game have a mournful, despondent quality to them. There is a sense of resigned nostalgia (an acceptance of the situation perhaps) to the words, which gives the song, as a whole, a slightly retro feel.

3. ‘He can only hold her for so long/ The lights are on but no one’s home/ She’s so vacant/ Her soul is taken/ He thinks, ‘What’s she running from?’

Taken from the song He Can Only Hold Her, these lyrics differ from the majority of Amy’s songs, as they are written in third person. The song describes a relationship between a man and a woman in which the man is emotionally invested, yet the woman is in love with somebody else. The third person voice reinforces the woman’s sense of emotional detachment. It is possible that Amy is writing about herself in this scenario.

4. ‘His face in my dreams seizes my guts/ He floods me with dread/ Soaked in soul/ He swims in my eyes by the bed/ Pour myself over him.’

This song I Wake Up Alone is arguably Amy’s most heart-breaking piece, and explores the obsessive, nature of love and infatuation, and that haunting feeling of not only missing someone, but feeling their presence long after they have left.

5. ‘He walks away/ The sun goes down/ He takes the day/ But I am grown.’

Ending on a more cheerful note, these lyrics from the song Tears Dry on Their Own explore a similar theme to Back to Black (taken from the same album, and written about the same person) and are also relatable in terms of their simplicity. Unlike Back to Black there is a sense of hope and positivity, conveyed through the lines ‘But I am grown’. Perfect listening for those final stages of getting through a break up!

That concludes our list of Amy Winehouse’s top love themed lyrics. Why not let us know your favourites via social media, or, if you are interested in finding out more about Amy Winehouse’s life and works, take a look at our book ‘A Losing Game’ by Mick O’Shea
Thursday, 08 September 2016 14:03

Welcome to our blog!

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Welcome to the Plexus Publishing blog!

Keep an eye out in upcoming weeks as we'll be posting book reviews, information on our titles and some sneak peeks at what we're getting up to in the Plexus office. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to stay up to date.


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