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Everyone Loves You When You're Dead: Almost Almost Famous

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Neil Strauss Everyone Loves You When You're Dead: Journeys into Fame and Madness ItBooks, 554 pp., $16.99

While most music-journo compendiums usually collect a sonic scribe's most famous interview pieces into one book, Strauss - one of the finest currently practicing the trade - takes a wholly different approach with this effort. And it's what raises it above others.

Rather than reproduce his "best" pieces whole, the contributor to Rolling Stone and The New York Times offers up 228 "bite-sized" nuggets from his talks with the musicians, actors, comedians, pop-culture figures and the occasional oddball - many times having little to do with whatever they're promoting at the time.

Instead, Strauss says he's looking for a "moment of truth or authenticity" in the writer-meets-subject process that is contrived by nature, and he gets it. From Kenny G to Slayer, Tom Cruise to Zac Efron, Dolly Parton to Madonna, Chuck Berry to Ice-T, and Brian Wilson to Slipknot, this breezy but deep read actually reveals something about each one of its subjects.

And whether it's riding with Snoop Dogg smoking blunts while on the hunt for his kid's diapers, being held hostage for three days by Courtney Love during which she asks (and Strauss gives her) a loan, or explaining to New Orleans police and a screaming wife why he's not trying to bootleg a show by Ernie K. Doe in the soul one-hit wonder's club, Strauss' adventures read like a Bizarro World version of Almost Famous.

And one that, sadly, is usually not available anymore to writers in a world where a 15-minute phoner with the publicist listening in is the norm.

In fact, it seems wrong to call this book a collection of interviews. Instead, it's a selection of excerpts from conversations. Anybody remember those?


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