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Straight Life: The Story Of Art Pepper PDF, ePub eBook Not for the faint-hearted, Art Pepper's autobiography is painfully honest as the great saxophonist describes a life of drugs, alcohol and the occasional foray into crime, having spent five of his best years incarcerated in San Quentin.

30 review for Straight Life: The Story Of Art Pepper

  1. 5 out of 5

    Buck

    Back in my jazzbo days, I had this one Art Pepper LP. At the time, I didn’t know much about his life, but the album cover told a story in itself. There was Pepper: a shady-looking dude, his once-handsome features coarsened by years of hard living, a bare forearm displaying crude jailhouse tats. He looked more like an old carny than a jazz musician. Yet the music itself was in stark contrast to this rough exterior: unguardedly tender and deeply beautiful, it had no earthly business coming out of Back in my jazzbo days, I had this one Art Pepper LP. At the time, I didn’t know much about his life, but the album cover told a story in itself. There was Pepper: a shady-looking dude, his once-handsome features coarsened by years of hard living, a bare forearm displaying crude jailhouse tats. He looked more like an old carny than a jazz musician. Yet the music itself was in stark contrast to this rough exterior: unguardedly tender and deeply beautiful, it had no earthly business coming out of that man’s horn. But that was Art Pepper: when he wasn’t being a white-trash fuckup—shooting smack, stealing auto parts, going in and out of prison—he recorded some of the loveliest jazz in history. Straight Life, Pepper’s oral autobiography, doesn’t shed much light on this dichotomy. Pepper himself seems as mystified as anyone by the source of his talent. It was always just there, apparently, and could be summoned at will. No matter how strung out he was, no matter how many months it had been since he’d picked up a saxophone, put a battered old horn in his mouth and imperishable sounds poured out of him. Part of the book’s magic is that, throughout, Pepper remains blithely unaware of his own assholery. He’ll tell these completely insane stories as if they were the most natural things in the world, fully expecting the reader’s sympathy and adoration, and the whole time your jaw’s hanging open and you’re thinking: “Holy. Fuck. I cannot believe you’re telling me this. But don’t stop now, you crazy son-of-a-bitch.” What makes it even more insane is that all of this stuff was dictated to his wife. The chicks he “balled”, the joys of heroin, the hare-brained robberies he pulled to support his habit: nothing’s off-limits, and everything’s recounted with the same naïve gusto. Laurie Pepper, the wife in question, made a crucial (and brave) editorial decision: she sought out dozens of her husband’s colleagues and cronies, put them on tape, then interspersed Art’s narrative with these other depositions, thus setting up a counterpoint to Pepper’s self-mythologizing. So in one section you have Pepper reminiscing about his years in San Quentin, bragging about what a bad-ass he was and how he’d decided he needed to kill someone to cement his rep. And he totally would have done it, too—had the shiv made and everything! Then he got early parole. Bummer. A page or two later, one of the guys he was in the joint with—a real bad-ass— is laughing good-naturedly about what a “pathological physical coward” Art was. The book would’ve been amazing in any case, I think, but it’s these choral interludes that make it the stone-cold masterpiece it is. In fairness to Pepper, it must be said that almost everybody liked him, even those who knew better than to trust him. They couldn’t help it. Like a lot of weak people, he had an insatiable need for love and a cunning ability to extort it. The thing that fascinates and horrifies me about the man is that, while he experienced enough pleasure and pain for ten lifetimes, he never really learned anything, never repented, never changed. He wasn’t a malicious person, by any means, just incredibly selfish—one of those charming rogues who blunder their way through life, leaving broken hearts and ruination in their wake. If his talent exempted him from normal accountability to some degree, his physical beauty did the rest (everyone remarks on how hot he was, including Art himself). Men wanted to be his buddy and give him free drugs, and women wanted to take care of him. What chance did he have? Poor bastard. I don’t envy him one bit. But it must have been a freaky trip while it lasted.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Louise

    This is an oral history with Art Pepper telling his story in short chronological segments with interviews of friends and associates spliced in. While Pepper is famous for his jazz and jazz is part of the story, there is more about the drug and prison culture of California at the time. As Art speaks (you know this because the margins are justified) you adjust to his point of view which is best summarized on p. 424: “I’d known him in jail. He was a real criminal and dopefiend, so I trusted him.” Th This is an oral history with Art Pepper telling his story in short chronological segments with interviews of friends and associates spliced in. While Pepper is famous for his jazz and jazz is part of the story, there is more about the drug and prison culture of California at the time. As Art speaks (you know this because the margins are justified) you adjust to his point of view which is best summarized on p. 424: “I’d known him in jail. He was a real criminal and dopefiend, so I trusted him.” There are many remarkable things about Pepper’s life such as his loving but distant father who spots his talent, his stint in the Army in WWII where a last minute change in orders probably saved his life, his relationships with women, his adapting to prison life and his experience of Synanon. Most amazing is that he survived an incredible amount of drug and alcohol abuse until his mid- 40’s before is body gave out and he found someone who could love him despite his baggage and his habit. Pepper’s life defined the wisdom of “Just say no”. Once hooked, his time was devoted to acquiring the resources to fix (boosting = stealing, begging “friends”, or playing a gig), “copping”, coming down (very unpleasant when lasting too long) and acquiring the resources again. He hides with stolen goods in rough neighborhoods and alleys and panics at the hint of a patrol. After a 5 day binge with pills he can’t stand up while wife attempts suicide. There are pages and pages of this and the people in this world seem to accept it as normal. Synanon was a very curious place. I checked Wikipedia, and, it was (and still is in Germany) a “new religious movement”. It is said to run on donations. (Maintaining this residential campus for what seems like hundreds of adults with buses and its own private beach implies a huge donor base.) Treatment seemed to be separation from society and peer supervision. There were some unorthodox practices such as changing schedules, rooms and policies without notice, having 24+ hours of non-stop activities and “the game”. Synanon seemed to be a “rest cure” for Pepper, and a place where he learned social norms other than those of the street. Once his body was healed methadone and Laurie (who became his third wife) protected him from the worst aspects of addiction which he never did kick. The reader is back in the “Mad Men” era which shows in Pepper’s attitude toward women. He gives a description of the breasts of each woman he meets. He learns, but shows no understanding of, basic courtship etiquette. In one of the Synanon games he re-enacts the one thing he feels sorry for. He does not say he feels sorry about the sadness he brought to Patti or the tragedy to Diane or Christine. As you follow Pepper you can’t help but think of the thousands of addicts who live as Pepper did and worse. While Pepper almost killed himself and spent what should have been productive years in the worst prisons in the country, he had his talent, his father, and the women he used to cushion the blows. The book is riveting through its full 500 pages and enables the reader to visit a dangerous world in the safety of an arm chair. There a good photos and a very good discography. In the “Afterward” Laurie Pepper discusses the difficulties in assembling the material. Its value is beyond the satisfaction it brought her husband, the Peppers have assembled an important historical record.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Leah Polcar

    I read a review in Harper's about another book written by Laurie Pepper (co-author of Straight Life ) about Art Pepper and at least 3/4 of this review was dedicated to discussing how amazing Straight Life was. I still have no sense at all how good the new book is, but a flat out advertisement encouraging one to read Straight Life could not have been more persuasive. I found it impossible not to be intrigued by the selected excerpts discussing Art Pepper's hideous childhood and introductio I read a review in Harper's about another book written by Laurie Pepper (co-author of Straight Life ) about Art Pepper and at least 3/4 of this review was dedicated to discussing how amazing Straight Life was. I still have no sense at all how good the new book is, but a flat out advertisement encouraging one to read Straight Life could not have been more persuasive. I found it impossible not to be intrigued by the selected excerpts discussing Art Pepper's hideous childhood and introduction to heroin and descriptions about his participation in a cult and as an inmate at San Quentin. Not to mention that Pepper was probably the one of (if not the) best alto sax players ever (I'll take the testimony presented in Straight Life as fact here since I know nothing about jazz). So I came to Straight Life not as a Pepper fan, but curious about how an autobiography as lauded as this one, with such ardent fans (at least given the discussion in Harper's ), had escaped my attention. I can't answer that question, but I can say this is an amazing book and I understand exactly why everyone was well, so, jazzed. The story can't be beat -- Pepper had some unbelievable experiences -- but it is way it is told that makes this work such a triumph. Spoken by Art; taped, transcribed, and edited by Laurie, this reads like you have a junkie jazzman sitting on your couch telling you about "that one time when... ". Yet there are no tall tales here. No matter how morally bankrupt or desperate, Art is relentlessly honest and what he reveals about himself is shocking. Highly highly recommended.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jay Johnston

    I loved this book. At first I thought the writing style was going to be too simple, crude, straight-forward....whatever. But the STORY here is so gripping, so chilling, and yet so laugh-out-loud funny and ultimately, so very touching that I couldn't put it down. It's not for everyone.....if fact, it's probably not for most people. Summary - The book is broken into three or four sections. 1) An amazing historical view of early jazz from an insider. Art lost by just a handful of votes to Charlie P I loved this book. At first I thought the writing style was going to be too simple, crude, straight-forward....whatever. But the STORY here is so gripping, so chilling, and yet so laugh-out-loud funny and ultimately, so very touching that I couldn't put it down. It's not for everyone.....if fact, it's probably not for most people. Summary - The book is broken into three or four sections. 1) An amazing historical view of early jazz from an insider. Art lost by just a handful of votes to Charlie Parker for Downbeat Magazine's Best Alto Saxophonist in the 40s. He played in Stan Kenton's Orchestra. He recorded a classic album with Miles Davis' first great quintet. He tells personal stories about Johnny Hodges, Lester Young, Sonny Stitt, Red Garland, John Coltrane, and the list goes on. Secondly (2) It's a tale of a man's terrifying descent into heroin addiction that makes Keith Richards' drug use look recreational/medicinal in comparison. This segues into (3) a jail-story that escalates into the hardest time imaginable served in San Quentin, and everything that goes with THAT. Finally it (4) talks about Art's three year stint in The Church of Syanon - an alternate community in the 70s that started as a rehabilitation program but later (d)evolved into one of the most dangerous and violent cults America had ever seen. All of this is tied together somehow in a beautify narrative that his wife pieced together through recorded interviews with him and those in his life. I came to see him as a complicated man and an artist in search of life's deepest truths - demanding the utmost honesty in his music of of himself. I learned about this book via Marc Maron's WTF podcast and am glad that I did. What a wild ride.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rufussenex

    An amazing read - gritty, beautiful, sad, and pitchblack funny. You would have to go to Chandler to find an LA as simultaneously enchanting and repulsive. Art is the ultimate charming asshole, spinning a story that soars and crashes thru a life wracked by self-doubt and bad choices, not the least of which was a heroin addiction that hobbled a brilliant career and left him spending most of the sixties in San Quentin. But both God and the Devil are in the details. I am haunted by his descriptions An amazing read - gritty, beautiful, sad, and pitchblack funny. You would have to go to Chandler to find an LA as simultaneously enchanting and repulsive. Art is the ultimate charming asshole, spinning a story that soars and crashes thru a life wracked by self-doubt and bad choices, not the least of which was a heroin addiction that hobbled a brilliant career and left him spending most of the sixties in San Quentin. But both God and the Devil are in the details. I am haunted by his descriptions of a line of musicians playing their instruments as they walk from a stranded bus in the snow, or a whiteknuckle recording session with the Miles Davis rhythm section (Coltrane era) after a months-long drug stupor, or him practicing alone in an empty prison yard. His skills as a raconteur are evident, but so are Laurie Pepper's skills as editor. She was not afraid to juxtapose Art's boasts with contradictory comments from his friends and colleagues, making her husband out as less than a saint, and his life as far from a feel-good redemption story as possible. Art was Art, pretty and pretty fucked up, and his life was a struggle til the end. Which is why I like this book, I guess.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    I was talking about the Giddins book and my renewed interest in jazz to several friends and new acquaintances and all of them told me that I HAD to read Art Pepper’s fascinating autobiography (co-written with his last wife Laurie), Straight Life. They were so right! I blew threw the 400 pages like Art blowing through his alto on Art+11 and loved it. It is dark and scary but a good reminder of all the reasons NOT to go anywhere near heroin if you have any issues or hangups around self-confidence I was talking about the Giddins book and my renewed interest in jazz to several friends and new acquaintances and all of them told me that I HAD to read Art Pepper’s fascinating autobiography (co-written with his last wife Laurie), Straight Life. They were so right! I blew threw the 400 pages like Art blowing through his alto on Art+11 and loved it. It is dark and scary but a good reminder of all the reasons NOT to go anywhere near heroin if you have any issues or hangups around self-confidence or self-image in general. The writing is interesting and offers unique views into prison life (he did TWO terms in San Quentin!) and the music business in the 50s and 60s. I have since started listening to his music (honestly I had never listened to him before reading the book) and have been more than pleasantly surprised. Highly recommended even if you are not a jazz fan.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Van Runkle

    Wow. This book is so heavy. I tell everyone about this book, especially musicians and art people and entertainment people. The down side about this book is its 500+ pages, like a tome. It's also excruciatingly painful at times. Pepper uses people, pimps people, but also loves people. This book is just so human and powerful. It's a great insight into the jazz scene and the Hollywood LA scene. The jail scene's there too. Pepper walks the line between depression and a deep sense of life erring on t Wow. This book is so heavy. I tell everyone about this book, especially musicians and art people and entertainment people. The down side about this book is its 500+ pages, like a tome. It's also excruciatingly painful at times. Pepper uses people, pimps people, but also loves people. This book is just so human and powerful. It's a great insight into the jazz scene and the Hollywood LA scene. The jail scene's there too. Pepper walks the line between depression and a deep sense of life erring on the right side more often than not. There's nothing more pathetic than listening to someone obsessed with what he or she thinks makes them different. Peppers love of music, his straight no chaser honesty, his hilarious stories about 'the single life'- that all helped me put up with his narcissistic pathologies. Guy was a legend. No denying it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAhMPr...

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rick Barnes

    As brutal, as honest, and as alive as Art's playing. I met Art in L.A. in 1972 or 73, but I didn't know who he was. I knew he played jazz, but I didn't really know what jazz was. A mutual friend had brought him over to hear a few of my stupid little folky-ass tunes. Art didn't appear to be very impressed. After he left my friend put on the album, "Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section". I said, "Holy Shit! THAT'S the guy that was just listening to my tunes? Why on earth did you do that to me?" I' As brutal, as honest, and as alive as Art's playing. I met Art in L.A. in 1972 or 73, but I didn't know who he was. I knew he played jazz, but I didn't really know what jazz was. A mutual friend had brought him over to hear a few of my stupid little folky-ass tunes. Art didn't appear to be very impressed. After he left my friend put on the album, "Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section". I said, "Holy Shit! THAT'S the guy that was just listening to my tunes? Why on earth did you do that to me?" I'm pretty sure that, as he was listening to my stuff, Art was thinking the same thing. Read the book! It's the next best thing to having met him.

  9. 5 out of 5

    C. Michael

    Straight Life--The Story of Art Pepper Art and Laurie Pepper 506 Pages ISBN# 0306805588 Da Capo Press 1996 Writer's Note: Straight Life--The Story of Art Pepper is 35-years old and is a well-established piece of jazz reportage not requiring further comment, which has never stopped me. I have written this piece for a two-fold reason: one, to provide All About Jazz some commentary original to the magazine, and to anticipate Laurie Pepper's long awaited memoir, ART: Why I Stuck with a Junkie Jazzma Straight Life--The Story of Art Pepper Art and Laurie Pepper 506 Pages ISBN# 0306805588 Da Capo Press 1996 Writer's Note: Straight Life--The Story of Art Pepper is 35-years old and is a well-established piece of jazz reportage not requiring further comment, which has never stopped me. I have written this piece for a two-fold reason: one, to provide All About Jazz some commentary original to the magazine, and to anticipate Laurie Pepper's long awaited memoir, ART: Why I Stuck with a Junkie Jazzman (Art Pepper Music Corporation, 2014). These two books taken together provide a glimpse into jazz making in the latter half of the 20th Century, when it most rapidly evolved and how two desperate souls found one another and created something beautiful and forever. Jazz autobiographies, like all autobiographies, are funny animals. Ostensibly, an autobiography could be expected to be an open and honest account of its subject's life: an objective appraisal. Okay, that is a bit pie-in- the-sky. But, all too often, autobiographies come off glib, aloof, and historically uninformative as {{m: Miles Davis = 6144}} did in Miles: The Autobiography (Simon & Schuster, 1989, with Quincy Troupe) or candidly evident that the author is revealing only what he or she wants the reader to know as in {{m: Eddie Condon = 5869}}'s We Called it Music (H. Holt, 1947, with Thomas Sugrue). Both are certainly entertaining and reveal much of their authors' personality and temperament: more in the vein of memoir than true biography. That said, both, in equal measure, fail to provide the academic rigor of the classical biography. Perhaps they were never supposed to. Art and Laurie Pepper's Straight Life--The Story of Art Pepper exists as a classic biography within an autobiography, wrapped in a memoir. Published originally in 1979 and then again in 1994 with a new afterword, updating the alto saxophonist's story from 1979 until his death in 1982, Straight Life remains the touchstone of the post-bebop West Coast jazz life. Within is the open and honest account of the jazz life: the only American Romantic myth that can compare with its European equivalent, Goethe's Die Leiden des jungen Werthers, the myth of beautiful and talent youth damned to self-destruction. Laurie Pepper, then Laurie Miller, had met Pepper in 1968 while they were living at Synanon, a quasi- predecessor to what would become "rehab," chemical dependency treatment centers 15- years later. Synanon utilized the "honesty at all cost" rehab maxim without the 12- Step dogma. It was founded in 1958 by Charles E. "Chuck" Dederich, Sr. and boasted treatment successes in the face of conventional wisdom. Like many social movements (read that, "cults"), Synanon transmogrified into the Church of Synanon in the 1970s, and like many such organizations, permanently disbanding in 1989 in the shadow of alleged criminal activities, including attempted murder and Federal tax-evasion accusations. It was during this period that Laurie Miller began a relationship with Pepper, with both leaving Synanon, seeking vocations outside of treatment. After having spent much time with Pepper, a master storyteller, Miller posited the idea of writing Pepper's story and in 1972 when her initial interviews with the saxophonist began. The two married in 1974 and after some fits and starts, the book was written. What resulted was a story assembled using interviews to flesh out Pepper's pre-Synanon life and Miller's being an active participant in the story after. In equal measures, Pepper's story exists as a grinding and lurid story of West Coast class distinctions, poverty and neglect out of which a singular talent emerged and finally prevailed. Pepper narrates with the flair of an exhibitionist, detailing his sexual coming of age, two failed marriages, his introduction to heroin and his multiple incarcerations, which make for many of the most gripping passages in the book. Straight Life exists as a collection of books, a jazz bible, where many elements are given in- depth treatments. These often disparate elements include music and race on Los Angeles' Central Avenue in the 1940s, traveling with a big band (Stan Kenton) after World War II and then the small-group recordings that grew out of the East Coast Bebop movement as it moved West. Institutional life in San Quentin is provided in lurid detail, with Pepper detailing the measures required to live in prison, as well as, the stories of crime and larceny that existed between incarcerations. The Synanon sections illuminate the structures and conduct of the cult, which were well ahead of their time. Necessarily, what is central to the book is the music. In the 1950s, Pepper recorded classic and near- classic LPs of the period, most notably Meets the Rhythm Section (Contemporary, 1957), made in a heroin fog brilliantly described in the book and Art Pepper + Eleven: Modern Jazz Classics (Contemporary, 1959). The album art of these LPs depicts a physically beautiful man, intense and smoldering. The music reveals an alto saxophonist and clarinetist with an empathic knack for ballads and burners, a knack that would transform into a battlefield in the latter part of Pepper's career. In the recording chronology, after Pepper had recorded the sides which would become Intensity (Contemporary, 1960) on November 23- 25, 1960, it would be 15 years before Pepper would record again as a leader. The intervening time was occupied by prison, Synanon, and scuffling around before the now Laurie Pepper became more involved, guiding Pepper and his career back to music. In 1975, Living Legend (Contemporary) was recorded and a very different Pepper emerged, one that stood at stark contrast to the dry-ice cool of the late 1950s. An aural example of this is the comparison of Pepper's 1956 recording of "Blues In" from Modern Art (Blue Note, 1956) with its {{m: Paul Desmond = 6243}}-like tone made dirty with olive brine and Samba Mom Mom from Living Legend with its warm and searching timbre becoming molten in the solo sections. Pepper evolved through a 1960s {{m: John Coltrane = 5851}} phase into an incendiary performer out to prove himself anew each time he played. Pepper's tours of the East Coast, ending in The Complete Village Vanguard Sessions (Contemporary, 1977/1995) and then his tours of Japan and subsequent recordings on Galaxy Records round out the original book. Laurie Pepper, in her 1994 afterword, bring the reader to Pepper's end from a cerebral hemorrhage June 15, 1982 at the age of 56 years old. Laurie Pepper's part in the story increases in prominence as Pepper's reliance on her increases in the chronology and this is reflected in the writing without Laurie Pepper, in the role of editor, losing site of the story's subject. The picture of Art Pepper that takes shape is one of a brilliant artist with an ill-defined ego and superego, leaving only a dense limbic id doing its bidding. Laurie Pepper never sugarcoats her challenges with the artist but nor does she judge him as anything other than a sublime artist with all of the evidence to support that claim. Writer and Pepper historian Todd Selbert, author of The Art Pepper Companion: Writings on a Jazz Original (Cooper Square Press, 2000) provides an at-the- time exhaustive discography which he updates for the 1994 edition. Many recordings have been compiled and re-released quickly outstripping Seibert's original stellar account. The reader is encouraged to see the Art Pepper Discography at Jazz Discography Project. If Straight Life lacks anything, it is a clearer picture of Laurie Pepper, who is Oz behind the curtain in this story. But then that was never her intention to be anything else. That said, Ms. Pepper rectifies this circumstance with the publication of her personal memoir ART: Why I Stuck with a Junkie Jazzman, revealing a complex personage who is at once warmly engaged and frankly spoken.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Elliot Sneider

    Any lover of jazz, or of American history, or of character studies of people who live on the edge of society will love this book. I'm in awe at the way Art was able to navigate such a long life while taking risk after risk with his mind, his body, and his relationships. The writing is so candid you have to stop yourself sometimes while reading to remind yourself that this was a truly unique life, one that can teach us about the limits of human endurance but devoid of any lesson about how one sho Any lover of jazz, or of American history, or of character studies of people who live on the edge of society will love this book. I'm in awe at the way Art was able to navigate such a long life while taking risk after risk with his mind, his body, and his relationships. The writing is so candid you have to stop yourself sometimes while reading to remind yourself that this was a truly unique life, one that can teach us about the limits of human endurance but devoid of any lesson about how one should live their life in relation. It is kind an un-self help book. It gives you nothing to model after, and in someways makes you question even why we spend so much time staying healthy and living within society's limits when someone can function for so long on the outside. Art's descriptions and stories of life in prison are vivid and real. He is somehow able to be hard as a rock on the outside and completely open about his feelings of fear and hopelessness. Of course that is the surface only, underneath it is clear that Art struggled his entire life to connect with the world and realize his place. As a jazz musician, I can appreciate much of his struggles in the music world. He seems to have found himself by the end of his life, finding a fame that very few musicians attain. One of the great books on jazz, up there with Beneath the Underdog.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Harriett Milnes

    After reading about Art's rape of a woman that he met and drank with during World War II, I lost interest in his autobiography: We talked and drank, and the time went by. She was pretty and I was very lonely. . . We started lying close and goofing around with each other, and time kept passing. . . And as we're walking, all of a sudden she says, "Well, it was nice meeting you. We'll have to get together again." I said, "What are you talking about?" Here I'd spent the whole day! We'd drunk almost t After reading about Art's rape of a woman that he met and drank with during World War II, I lost interest in his autobiography: We talked and drank, and the time went by. She was pretty and I was very lonely. . . We started lying close and goofing around with each other, and time kept passing. . . And as we're walking, all of a sudden she says, "Well, it was nice meeting you. We'll have to get together again." I said, "What are you talking about?" Here I'd spent the whole day! We'd drunk almost the whole two quarts of Old Kuchenheimer! And I'd given her cigarettes! I said, "What do you mean? Yeah, naturally it's been nice, but where are we going?" So then she said, "Well, I've go to get home, and my parents are home. We can't go there." . . . We were way out in the country and hadn't passed anybody since we got off the subway. I said, "We're going to make it one way or another; either you're going to do it peaceable or . . . (i) dragged her to this cemetery and threw her down on the ground. . . It wasn't even enjoyable. I spread her legs and got my thing out, and as soon as I got it in her . . .I hated her guts and I really despised myself. . . She walked off and I found my way back. I skipped ahead and the parts about joining Synanon looked interesting, but "too many books, so little time" and I abandoned this book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tuck

    pg 222, Art Pepper has just got out of prison for the 2nd time. though he has yet to commit a crime (they send you to federal prison for marks in 1957, no dope even needed). i've read some prety incredible books and bios about musicians, some standouts are joe strummers book, and miles davis' and frank zappas and etta james and john coltrane and bob marley and warren zevon and many others. all have some very special things about them, most forefront is artistry, drugs and outsider life, fucked u pg 222, Art Pepper has just got out of prison for the 2nd time. though he has yet to commit a crime (they send you to federal prison for marks in 1957, no dope even needed). i've read some prety incredible books and bios about musicians, some standouts are joe strummers book, and miles davis' and frank zappas and etta james and john coltrane and bob marley and warren zevon and many others. all have some very special things about them, most forefront is artistry, drugs and outsider life, fucked up relationships....and music. this is by far the best music book i have read so far. (well for what it is] plus art pepper played saxophone (AND clarinet) better than most anyone ever has ever. Art gets busted a 3rd time, and goes back to san quentin again. its more horrible tan anyone can ever imagine, still is frankly. he gets out again and starts doping again, and finally,after destroying his body, mind, and fiends and lovers art pepper checks into synanon, another complte mindfuck, but he DOES meet laurie and they eventually write this book together. this has about a 30 page comprehensive discography. so while art pepper took most every drug available, and way way beyond excess, he was still making lots and lots of the most incredible jazz ever played. some said it was a gift from god, his talent and art. Art said it was his life, god didnt have anything to do with it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Barry Hammond

    Jazz saxophone player Art Pepper was a self-formed talent of rare skill and sensitivity. He played in Stan Kenton's big band and went on to to numerous group and solo recordings as a player and composer. He was also a flat out junkie who did serious jail time in San Quentin and other prisons. This autobiography tells his story in his own words (with supplemental interviews with many of the people he knew on both sides of the law along with quotes from published interviews and magazine articles a Jazz saxophone player Art Pepper was a self-formed talent of rare skill and sensitivity. He played in Stan Kenton's big band and went on to to numerous group and solo recordings as a player and composer. He was also a flat out junkie who did serious jail time in San Quentin and other prisons. This autobiography tells his story in his own words (with supplemental interviews with many of the people he knew on both sides of the law along with quotes from published interviews and magazine articles alongside for another perspective) in harrowing detail and honesty. Edited together by his third and final wife, Laurie, the book takes the reader on both a musical journey and an exploration of the living hell that was his inner life. One of the most honest portrayals of an addict in all literature. Jean Genet or William S. Burroughs haven't done it any better or honestly. This edition contains an introduction by jazz critic Gary Giddens, an extensive afterward by Laurie Pepper about his final years after the first release of the book, and a discography by Todd Selbert. A tough document about a difficult subject. - BH.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Allan MacDonell

    Art Pepper's Straight Life may be the rawest autobiography anyone ever needs to read, drenched in drugs, sex, suicides, cult fiends, prison, mom issues, spousal abuse and rape, with a dash of jazz history. Pepper seems to pin the source of his human alienation on being a white musician in the black world of jazz, and being rejected by many African Americans in that world due to the color of his skin. But maybe the black musicians simply didn't like Art because he made himself so unlikeable. Ever Art Pepper's Straight Life may be the rawest autobiography anyone ever needs to read, drenched in drugs, sex, suicides, cult fiends, prison, mom issues, spousal abuse and rape, with a dash of jazz history. Pepper seems to pin the source of his human alienation on being a white musician in the black world of jazz, and being rejected by many African Americans in that world due to the color of his skin. But maybe the black musicians simply didn't like Art because he made himself so unlikeable. Everyone who comes in contact with the man -- to hear the man's gutty, arrogant, harsh self-appraisal -- paid a price. This vivid one-person oral history (with occasional verifying chats coming from bit players who orbited within the Pepper universe) has the furious forward momentum of a hope-to-die junkie hurtling toward his next catastrophe and takes a searing deep dive into the soul's darkest, most conflicted chambers. Also, plenty of sly doper humor.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Cartmel

    Harrowing and engrossing, Straight Life tells the life story of Art Pepper, based on tape recorded interviews made by his wife Laurie. Who is Art Pepper? The "greatest alto saxophone player in the world." He was also a junkie who tragically spent a huge portion of his life behind bars thanks to a legal system which destroys a musician of genius just because he's an addict. I channelled some of my anger about this into my Vinyl Detective novel Written in Dead Wax, where my account of 1950s LA cop Harrowing and engrossing, Straight Life tells the life story of Art Pepper, based on tape recorded interviews made by his wife Laurie. Who is Art Pepper? The "greatest alto saxophone player in the world." He was also a junkie who tragically spent a huge portion of his life behind bars thanks to a legal system which destroys a musician of genius just because he's an addict. I channelled some of my anger about this into my Vinyl Detective novel Written in Dead Wax, where my account of 1950s LA cops persecuting jazz musicians was largely based on Art Pepper's experience. Because of Pepper's tormented life this book is as relevant to anyone who wants to know about the penal system in America as it is to jazz fans.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    One of the hardest of hard-core junkies, Art Pepper would supplement his brilliant jazz career by stealing, lying and cheating to keep up an unstoppable drug habit. Even after incarceration he would bounce out and score again, get busted again and score some more! The book has oodles of pictures of him loaded and looking ready for death. You've never seen so many torn-up addict pictures in your life. What gives his book three stars instead of five is his whiny tone all through the book. Typical One of the hardest of hard-core junkies, Art Pepper would supplement his brilliant jazz career by stealing, lying and cheating to keep up an unstoppable drug habit. Even after incarceration he would bounce out and score again, get busted again and score some more! The book has oodles of pictures of him loaded and looking ready for death. You've never seen so many torn-up addict pictures in your life. What gives his book three stars instead of five is his whiny tone all through the book. Typical punk drug addict to the end.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Read this years ago but reminded about it by a list of books musicians have chosen about music. Reminded because it is not on the list yet it is wonderful. A wonderful book about jazz about los angeles about a life of mistakes about looking back. Art Pepper was brilliant. This is the list - http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015...

  18. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    Maybe as good an autobiography as I have ever read in many ways-- Pepper's wife taped his reminiscences, then supplemented them with anecdotes from friends and family, and interviews and articles about Pepper from Downbeat. The effect is something like a Dos Passos novel, but it wouldn't have worked if Pepper had been anything less than as candid as he allowed himself to be. In some sense I suspect that the honesty he showed came about as a result of his time with Synanon, and that turns out to Maybe as good an autobiography as I have ever read in many ways-- Pepper's wife taped his reminiscences, then supplemented them with anecdotes from friends and family, and interviews and articles about Pepper from Downbeat. The effect is something like a Dos Passos novel, but it wouldn't have worked if Pepper had been anything less than as candid as he allowed himself to be. In some sense I suspect that the honesty he showed came about as a result of his time with Synanon, and that turns out to be the problem with the book. While it is certainly true that when you think of Art Pepper you think of heroin addiction, (true of a lot of alto players, actually) what makes him interesting is his music. "Straight Life" is a book that allows Pepper's addictions to define him instead of his art, and while the stuff about being a junkie, and committing crimes, and going to prison is really interesting, and as well-written as anything William S. Burroughs did along those lines, I'd have liked more detail on recording and touring and some of the people he played with. Of course, that would have been a very different book. Pepper does give some detail about the "Meets the Rhythm Section" side, for example, and the influence he felt from John Coltrane after getting out of San Quentin, but his priority for almost his entire life was finding drugs. Actually, even if there had been more about playing, it probably would have been like the story he tells about "Meets the Rhythm Section": his wife (a different wife-- he was a bastard to be married to, and that comes shining through) and his producer set up the date without his knowledge, because he was strung out. His horn had been put away dirty, because he was strung out. He didn't have a set list-- you get the picture. A book like this really drives it home: junkies are little better than animals, even charming, talented junkies like Art Pepper. Compelling stuff-- I raced through the 500 pages, even though I knew that it would end badly. He died on methadone maintenance, which mostly kept him off smack, but to compensate he continued to drink like his ass was on fire, and added a charming cocaine addiction in his last years. His first wife divorced him when he went away for his first stretch, and his daughter was adopted by her second husband. What happened to his second wife is just miserable to read about -she followed him into addiction, and he is completely unsympathetic to the fact that he destroyed her life. That's just how it is when you are a junkie, even though neither Art nor Laurie ever comes out and says it. You don't care about other people, you only care about the next fix. He almost never mentions another musician, but he has plenty of kind words for the people in prison that brought him drugs.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    "...no peace at all except when I was playing, and the minute I stopped playing there was nothing; that continual, insane search just to pass out somewhere and then to wake up in the morning and think, "Oh, my God," to wake up and think, "Oh God, here we go again." to drink a bottle of warm beer so I could vomit. so I could start all over again, so I could start that ridiculous, sickening, horrible, horrible life again- all of a sudden, all of a sudden, the demons and the devils and the wanderin "...no peace at all except when I was playing, and the minute I stopped playing there was nothing; that continual, insane search just to pass out somewhere and then to wake up in the morning and think, "Oh, my God," to wake up and think, "Oh God, here we go again." to drink a bottle of warm beer so I could vomit. so I could start all over again, so I could start that ridiculous, sickening, horrible, horrible life again- all of a sudden, all of a sudden, the demons and the devils and the wandering and wondering and all the frustrations just vanished and they didn't exist at all anymore because I'd finally found peace... ...All I can say is, at that moment I saw that I'd found peace of mind. Synthetically produced, but after what I'd been through and all the things I'd done, to trade that misery for total happiness- that was it, you know, that was it. I realized it. I realized that from that moment on- that's what I practiced: and that's what I still am. That's what I will die as- a junkie." Most people find salvation through religion, fewer still find it through hard drugs. Straight Life is as an effective window into a person's soul as I have ever read. Art Pepper is a legendary raconteur, and his wife Laurie has done the impossible by capturing the character, essence and tone of his peculiar voice. Everybody knows somebody who's politics or attitudes on life disgusts them, and yet we are drawn to these people anyways. Art Pepper is, objectively, a horrible person. He has vices out the wazoo, at times harbors racial and sexist prejudices, and uses every person around him for his own ends (usually to score drugs). Few people have had as many chances as Art Pepper had. To say Art Pepper used up his nine lives is an understatement. Yet if there is a lesson to be learned from this book (and this life) it is that there is nothing more disarming than the truth. Through Laurie, Art reveals himself in all of his splendid, fractured glory. Even when Art is lying or embellishing (which Laurie establishes as a frequent mode), he lays himself bare. He does not shy away from the bad things he has done, and lord has he done some bad things. But he has also accomplished many beautiful things, and if you are so inclined I highly recommend pulling up any of Art's albums on Spotify to accompany your reading. Many other authors are known for their diatribes and writings on drug culture (Thompson, Burroughs) but Straight Life is the most complete and fulfilling work on drugs and drug addiction I've read. You may not come away from Straight Life a fan of Art Pepper the man, but right or wrong, goddamnit the man lived.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sean Conroy

    Born of a wandering dad and a teenage mom, indifferently raised by an emotionally distant grandmother, Art Pepper's memoir is a study of alienation. He discovered a love of jazz as a teen, but felt like a perpetual outsider in an idiom largely defined by African-American artists--artists he alternately admired and resented. Like many jazz artists of his generation, Pepper started using heroin as a young man: a habit that damaged his reputation, his health, and led to stints in the L.A. County Ja Born of a wandering dad and a teenage mom, indifferently raised by an emotionally distant grandmother, Art Pepper's memoir is a study of alienation. He discovered a love of jazz as a teen, but felt like a perpetual outsider in an idiom largely defined by African-American artists--artists he alternately admired and resented. Like many jazz artists of his generation, Pepper started using heroin as a young man: a habit that damaged his reputation, his health, and led to stints in the L.A. County Jail, San Quentin, and Synanon--a drug rehab/cult community that ultimately redeemed Pepper for one last decade of artistic output. You’re tempted to loathe Pepper for his selfishness, his self-pity, his vanity, and his jailbird “code of the honorable doper” self-righteousness. But Pepper often follows passages of stunning narcissism with beautiful, knowing gems like this, his description of riding the "grey goose" prison bus into Soledad State Prison: "I got nervous, so I looked around at the guys. I figured these cats had really been around. They were cool. I figured I'd draw strength from their reactions. I looked, and everyone was the same. They were all quiet, and they had the weirdest looks in their eyes, guys that had been there. I saw fear in their eyes. I'd heard a lot of stories I'd tried to dismiss from my mind, but I saw these guys and they weren't joking and kidding as they had when we left the county jail and when we approached Soledad. All that had changed, and everything was stripped to just the realization of where we were going and where we would soon be." Pepper's accounts of prison life are among the most honest and heartbreaking in all of literature. Chapters in Straight Life are organized along episodes in Pepper's life ("Heroin," "Stealing") and the steady procession of women pulled into the orbit of Pepper's frantic lifestyle ("Diane," "Christine," "Synanon: Laurie"). The last of these, Laurie Miller, encouraged the recorded telling of Art's life story--which she later shaped, through interviews with Art's family and peers, into the end result, Straight Life. Art Pepper despised insincerity. In a world and a business full of clock-punchers and pretenders, Art Pepper strove to be honest and engaged, no matter the cost. Straight Life is his testimony.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Klein

    Art Pepper’s autobiography/biography “Straight Life” is a gut-wrenchingly honest telling of the musician’s tumultuous and occasionally derelict life in and out of the west coast jazz scene at its apex. The book’s format and brutally candid style allows Art’s voice and gritty language to evoke graphic images from his life, even if it does read more like a crime novel than a jazz biography. An important fact to be aware of before committing to this 500+ page biography/autobiography is that it is a Art Pepper’s autobiography/biography “Straight Life” is a gut-wrenchingly honest telling of the musician’s tumultuous and occasionally derelict life in and out of the west coast jazz scene at its apex. The book’s format and brutally candid style allows Art’s voice and gritty language to evoke graphic images from his life, even if it does read more like a crime novel than a jazz biography. An important fact to be aware of before committing to this 500+ page biography/autobiography is that it is a book about Art Pepper’s life, not his career as a musician. In fact, the way Art presents certain eras of his life can make the reader skeptical that Art really played jazz to the level he did. Descriptions of the entire recording process for a few of his signature albums are reduced to a few paragraphs and, in some instances, a few sentences. Major tours that Art participated in through the late 50’s and 60’s at times are mentioned only as a means to explain the surrounding circumstances of an especially debaucherous drug binge, or particularly contentious lovers’ quarrel. It may be close, but I’d wager that Art brings up heroin more frequently than jazz. Still, to a certain extent, this is what makes the book so hard to put down. It doesn’t follow the normal (always predictable and usually boring) musician autobiography blueprint: “I met this other musician, played this show, we got loaded, I banged this chick, probably had a fight, and then we woke up and did it again,” for 250 or so pages. Another trait that brings some uniqueness is the style in which Straight Life is written. While the majority of the book is autobiographical, passages from other people in Pepper’s life are included throughout. While no one’s recollection of a particular anecdote is ever radically different than that of Pepper’s, it is interesting to read an outsider’s perspective and definitely adds to the work. The bottom line is throughout his life Art always did whatever he wanted to in his own style, regardless of anyone else or the norm. In this aspect, his book is no different. Highly recommended for fans.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Dave Hartl

    I read this book in the mid-1980s and never forgot it. I just re-read it and it lost none of its power and darkness. It's a love story between a man and heroin. As such, it's bleak. The basic conflict that drives your reading forward is the beautiful music this man seemed to effortlessly create, versus the horrors and sordidness of his life between club jobs and tours. Where did it come from? Art Pepper wasn't a "I play what I feel and know" artist, he was a "this is my escape from the hell I li I read this book in the mid-1980s and never forgot it. I just re-read it and it lost none of its power and darkness. It's a love story between a man and heroin. As such, it's bleak. The basic conflict that drives your reading forward is the beautiful music this man seemed to effortlessly create, versus the horrors and sordidness of his life between club jobs and tours. Where did it come from? Art Pepper wasn't a "I play what I feel and know" artist, he was a "this is my escape from the hell I live in" kind. He's an artist I'm glad I never met, I'd rather think of him in terms of the beauty he created. His brutal frankness about his private life is what makes the book shocking. Apologies are not made as he basically confesses to crimes he did that did not lead to jail time. His stays in San Quentin and other prisons all came from engaging in the drug trade. How pointless! What he observed and absorbed in jail is thoughtful and shows a crafty and able mind at work. His criminality was so casual at times as to be unnoticed by him. Even his rehab at Synanon seems like an addiction with quack therapy replacing drugs, showing the needs that drove him despite him not even seeing it. William S. Burroughs called evil "The Algebra of Need"; Pepper vividly demonstrates it. A fascinating and powerful read, disappointing only in its lack of info on a lot of his key recording sessions. This book is about the demons that drove his music and less about the actual music. After reading it, I binge listened to his best albums and marveled. He paid the price of their creation, we get all the benefit.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    I came to this book via Terry Castle, author of "The Professor," a collection of feminist/critical essays, including a very amusing one about her relationship with Susan Sontag. Included in the book is a piece called "My Heroin Christmas," dealing with "Straight Life" by Art Pepper. Terry Castle loves this autobiography, an incredibly detailed chronicle about his magical, horrible, creative and heartbreaking time on this earth. She says part of her admiration comes partly from sheer fellow feeli I came to this book via Terry Castle, author of "The Professor," a collection of feminist/critical essays, including a very amusing one about her relationship with Susan Sontag. Included in the book is a piece called "My Heroin Christmas," dealing with "Straight Life" by Art Pepper. Terry Castle loves this autobiography, an incredibly detailed chronicle about his magical, horrible, creative and heartbreaking time on this earth. She says part of her admiration comes partly from sheer fellow feeling for "Southern California white trash." As for myself, I look at the book the way I look at many books about life in the lower depths: it's thrilling to read about it, although I wouldn't want to experience it. Why is it thrilling? I don't know; that's probably worth a separate essay. Anyway, Art's wife, Laurie Pepper, put it all together based on interviews with him, and either Art is a great talker or Laurie is a great writer, or perhaps both, because no matter how many times you read about Art getting arrested or going to prison or being in rehab,you still can't tear your eyes away from this book in the hope that this time, things will be different. But they're not. Art is honest about what a messed-up person he is and how many people he's disappointed. He acknowledges raping a woman decades ago and, perhaps an even bolder admission, talks of his love/hate relationships with black musicians and the difficulty of being a white guy in jazz. This has a solid place in the pantheon of lower-depths autobiographies.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mark Everton

    Art Pepper is a wonderful musician - his elegant tone and graceful swing always puts me in a good mood. But his life - detailed here in a take-no-prisoners autobiography - is as dark and ugly as his playing is light and effervescent. This book was put together after Pepper's death by his 4th wife Laurie and she's done an excellent job as editor - carefully placing interviews with Art's friends, family and colleagues to help contextualise Pepper's own, sometimes outrageous, words. His description Art Pepper is a wonderful musician - his elegant tone and graceful swing always puts me in a good mood. But his life - detailed here in a take-no-prisoners autobiography - is as dark and ugly as his playing is light and effervescent. This book was put together after Pepper's death by his 4th wife Laurie and she's done an excellent job as editor - carefully placing interviews with Art's friends, family and colleagues to help contextualise Pepper's own, sometimes outrageous, words. His descriptions of prison life - especially his five years in San Quentin - are chilling in their matter of fact intensity. In the end, Pepper's talent and ability win out and his music will endure in the hearts of his many fans. But this book makes me wonder what Art Pepper could have produced if his drug addiction was treated as a medical problem not a criminal one.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    Probably the most honest an accounting of the troubled life of a highly regarded jazz musician. This autobiography, with help from his wife, spares no dark moments or guilty admissions. Art Pepper repeatedly paid the price for his use of drugs and alcohol serving hard time in prison and with major health issues. Yet he stuck to his personal code of honor, never ratting on anyone to reduce his sentences and always staying honest to his music regardless of how high or strung out or sick he was. Th Probably the most honest an accounting of the troubled life of a highly regarded jazz musician. This autobiography, with help from his wife, spares no dark moments or guilty admissions. Art Pepper repeatedly paid the price for his use of drugs and alcohol serving hard time in prison and with major health issues. Yet he stuck to his personal code of honor, never ratting on anyone to reduce his sentences and always staying honest to his music regardless of how high or strung out or sick he was. The book could stand a little editing. There are some repetitions and confusing time lapses but overall it is a honest work by a person who gave into his drug habit after again and again going through the painful exercise of rehabilitation. I recommend this book selectively, it's not for everyone.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Alana

    Art Pepper was a terrific and well-known alto sax player whose potential was probably never realized because he was a dope fiend. In this book, Art narrates his life story to his third wife, Laurie. He talks about playing jazz and how it gave him access to heroin. His addiction led him to prison on several occasions. Where the book succeeds is in painting atmospheres of the drug and prison subcultures. It is a great book about addiction. Because the book is written first person (it's a literal t Art Pepper was a terrific and well-known alto sax player whose potential was probably never realized because he was a dope fiend. In this book, Art narrates his life story to his third wife, Laurie. He talks about playing jazz and how it gave him access to heroin. His addiction led him to prison on several occasions. Where the book succeeds is in painting atmospheres of the drug and prison subcultures. It is a great book about addiction. Because the book is written first person (it's a literal transcription of taped interviews), far removed from actual events, and fogged by drug use, it's hard to know what's true/real. It's a little too long and might have benefited from both a good edit, and a second voice to help the reader navigate truth from fiction.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    Straight Life was narrated by Art Pepper to his wife Laurie Pepper who edited and organized the book for publication. That may be why his voice comes through in such a direct and personal way. Or maybe it's because Pepper was such a fanatic about honesty and truth in his musical expression, and that carried over into his story-telling. In any case the result is a book that is a very compelling read, frightening, disgusting, and sometimes very funny (esp. the Synanon chapters). Straight Life is n Straight Life was narrated by Art Pepper to his wife Laurie Pepper who edited and organized the book for publication. That may be why his voice comes through in such a direct and personal way. Or maybe it's because Pepper was such a fanatic about honesty and truth in his musical expression, and that carried over into his story-telling. In any case the result is a book that is a very compelling read, frightening, disgusting, and sometimes very funny (esp. the Synanon chapters). Straight Life is not for jazz fans only, but jazz fans will be surprised to learn that such beautiful and lyrical phrasing and tone could come from such a train wreck of a life. Laurie Pepper deserves a lot of thanks and credit for bringing this book to publication.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Tole

    I consider myself very fortunate to have been lucky to have seen and heard Art Pepper play at Ronnie Scott's in the 80's before he died. The result of those sessions produced 'Blues for the Fisherman' which is right up there in my prized records of all time. Art was ever the great alto player. Supreme. Whilst at the same time being the perpetual gauche teenager. This book does real justice to the man and his loves not the least of which was heroin. He said on stage that he'd been addicted to thre I consider myself very fortunate to have been lucky to have seen and heard Art Pepper play at Ronnie Scott's in the 80's before he died. The result of those sessions produced 'Blues for the Fisherman' which is right up there in my prized records of all time. Art was ever the great alto player. Supreme. Whilst at the same time being the perpetual gauche teenager. This book does real justice to the man and his loves not the least of which was heroin. He said on stage that he'd been addicted to three things in life - junk, tobacco and sweets - and of them all sweets were the worst! This is an excellent book - one of the best jazz books going.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Harrison

    this is the raw art -- the book is an (edited) transcription of tapes. so it's raw and the sentences aren't beautifully constructed but there's still a music to them as one would expect from art pepper. one doesn't have to know a thing about jazz to appreciate the life art lived. in his book he describes with clarity: drugs, prison, and cults. he tells things honestly, though one must be careful not to confuse this with "truth" -- there is some balance achieved through the insertion of interviews this is the raw art -- the book is an (edited) transcription of tapes. so it's raw and the sentences aren't beautifully constructed but there's still a music to them as one would expect from art pepper. one doesn't have to know a thing about jazz to appreciate the life art lived. in his book he describes with clarity: drugs, prison, and cults. he tells things honestly, though one must be careful not to confuse this with "truth" -- there is some balance achieved through the insertion of interviews of people around him -- once you sort of understand art, you sort of understand better his point of view.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jay Koester

    Like a few others, I rushed to find this book after an article in Harper's Magazine talked about it reverentially as one of the best autobiographies ever. I made it through all 500+ pages only because I kept waiting for it to hit me. It never did. Some reviews compare it favorably to William S. Burroughs' Junky. Personally, I got way more out of Junky in hundreds of fewer pages. There are lessons from Junky I still think about every week, years after reading it. I can't imagine I'll ever think o Like a few others, I rushed to find this book after an article in Harper's Magazine talked about it reverentially as one of the best autobiographies ever. I made it through all 500+ pages only because I kept waiting for it to hit me. It never did. Some reviews compare it favorably to William S. Burroughs' Junky. Personally, I got way more out of Junky in hundreds of fewer pages. There are lessons from Junky I still think about every week, years after reading it. I can't imagine I'll ever think of Straight Life again.

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