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Sunday, January 6, 2008

Writer/Reader Reads Memoir at Therapist's Suggestion

Low Down
By A.J. Albany
Non-Fiction Memoir
Publisher-Bloomsbury, New York (2003)
Purchase Link - N/A - Picked up copy at Pasadena
central Library

Reviewed by Diane Ward, reader and Authors' Coalition member

The other day I received an email from my ex-therapist, Margaret Starr, suggesting I get hold of a copy of a book called LOW DOWN to read. According to Margaret, the writing seemed to remind her of my writing - 'wry, funny with undertones of accusation and appreciation.' Naturally, I had to find out what Margaret was talking about so I inquired at my local library to see if in fact they had a copy and/or could one be ordered. In two days I had a hard copy of the book in my hands. Wow! Now that's what I call efficient. O.K. So this is what I felt after reading this very intense journey of A.J. Albany.

First, I like the geography of the book...the lay of the land so to speak. For the most part, the telling of this tale occurs in Hollywood and the period is roughly from 1969 - 1972. This is exactly the same time I lived in a rented room in a Hollywood Hills home and walked to Falcon Studios on Hollywood Blvd, walking right past the St Francis Hotel - where A.J. was raised by her now late great jazz pianist dad Joe Albany. Had I seen her walking the streets as I passed by on my way to dance class? This, I could not remember... .

But getting back to A.J.'s upbringing, it is apparent from early on that both her mother and father were heroin addicts and unfortunately put their parenting skills on a back burner. A.J., at a very tender age had to in fact recessitate either parent at an given moment and bring them back to life. This in fact depicts young A.J. behaving as though she were her parents parent. How very sad and terrifying this
surely was for anyone to witness, let alone a 5 year old. It was around that time that A.J.'s mother decides to leave her dad and abandon her daugher. Thus, little A.J. is thrown into a world of rapidly declining jazz jobs that her father was not able to find work in and thrust more deeply into an environment of drug-dealers, parole officers, truant officers, whores and pimps looking for monies owed along with the occasional introductions to people like Charlie Mingus, Charlie Parker (via her dad's memory, Thelonious Monk and Erroll Garner, to mention but a few. Heavy stuff to assimilate for anyone, let alone a 5 year old. And so it goes...drug deals gone sour,her dad's getting arrested, getting released and constant shuffling between the St.Francis Hotel on Hollywood Blvd, and the Knickerbocker Hotel on Ivar where they mostly resided, one step always ahead of the police. In the strange world of bottom feeders, drug addicts, jazz musicians and every other kind ofmisfit and outcast that eventually gravitates to Hollywood, does A.J.'s story unfold. It is a very compelling tale and an honest look at an amoral society that defintely existed
in a time a young soul was cheated of her childhood. No one should have to experience a life growing up like this. It happens. Itis true. Pick up a copy of this book and see and feel it for yourself. I would give this book an "R" rating
for its explicit language and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed watching the film TRAINSPOTTING. What I don't understand is how Margaret, my ex-therapist could think my memoir is as dark as this...

1 comment:

Frances Lynn said...

On the strength of this review, I want to read this book.

Frances Lynn