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book review: Reaching Out With No Hands: Reconsidering Yoko Ono, by Lisa Carver

[Books]

Reaching Out With No Hands:
Reconsidering Yoko Ono

by Lisa Carver, from Backbeat Books, $18.99, biography, 5×7″ (approx) hardcover with dust jacket, 154 pages, 2012, backbeatbooks.com

Reaching Out With No Hands RECONSIDERING YOKO ONO, by Lisa Carver

Reaching Out With No Hands RECONSIDERING YOKO ONO, by Lisa Carver

book review by Reviewer Rob

In 1994 or 95 was weaning off of being the drunk nightclub photographer at Revolt in Style magazine because I had a habit of shooting nude photos of girls I met in bars that advertised with them. Mainly for fun but I did have artistic ambitions; I felt it was an “artistic pursuit.” The drunks, druggies and dealers that were always in the office at Revolt were getting more and more jealous and vibey towards me so I’d decided to seek greener pastures. Their gig wasn’t paying much anyway. I was a bit of a self-absorbed douche with little formal education so getting a real job for more than chump change as a photographer or reporter at The Union Tribune or The San Diego Reader wasn’t happening. So I had an idea. I’d start a publication of my own and call it Reviewer. Then I could get as drunk as I wanted and shoot as many photos as I wanted and write about whatever I thought was worth writing about and NO ONE COULD STOP ME! But how to do it was something I still needed to figure out. What little time I had spent in high school was not in the yearbook class. Trevor at Revolt was clever enough to publish my photos but not let me know anything about how to run the paper he owned since I was always pretty open about how I wanted to rule the world and he was always so paranoid he’d lose control of his magazine. He eventually did anyway but that’s irrelevant. What matters here is I needed someone who could show me how it’s done. So I started collecting per-zines at Tower Records, as they were called in the 1990’s. A per-zine is a personal magazine, a self-published periodical. It’s really a very condescending term but that’s what they were called. In Factsheet Five. a magazine printed by some punk rock bohemians in the San Francisco bay area, I had seen Lisa’s magazine ROLLERDERBY listed in their favorites section. When I called the Factsheet editorial number to ask some probing questions and continue my quest for knowledge the girl that answered the phone responded with one name that I can remember: “Lisa Carver.” She said it slowly, with such delight, as if it were her favorite food. I needed to find out more. They had categories for all the publications they reviewed in Factsheet, and when I saw that ROLLERDERBY was listed in the “sex” genre I knew I must investigate. I’ve always been a bit of a freak when it comes to that subject, and not for the reasons that you might assume. Observing other people who are obsessed with sex is often more entertaining for me than doing it myself. Anyways, Lisa was blonde, blue eyed, skinny, unfiltered and rumored to perform in the nude. She was also, I would later find out, a former teenage prostitute who got one of her first jobs turning tricks at a massage parlor in Maine shortly after graduating high school. And here she was selling her own self-published glossy slick-covered magazine filled with stream of consciousness writing about her adventures with friends and famous people she’d meet, interview and sometimes fuck. To me she was the perfect alternative to those hip and pretentious dudes at Revolt. Since she was female her existence grew into a nurturing influence. The fact that she was younger than me by several years made no difference; she held a type of motherly image in my weird, misguided mind. Or at least she was a kind of strong-willed older sister type. Being an only child made this association rather easy for me. So as you can see my unhealthy fascination with Lisa Carver has persisted for almost twenty years now. Which is why I was so thrilled to get REACHING OUT WITH NO HANDS RECONSIDERING YOKO ONO for review. But it’s a disappointment. I’ve loved Lisa’s writing many times before, even on the pages of Reviewer. But this book is not an example of her best work. Lisa often excels in her shorter pieces, like the articles she does currently for VICE, discussing intimate personal details from her own childhood or the challenges of being a single mom of an autistic son. There’s times she crafts words and ideas to high art. I just didn’t see her doing that here, not even sure she tried. Apparently she didn’t interview Yoko Ono for any material. There’s fans who’ll disagree with me. I read one positive review on Amazon by a guy named Mike Edison shortly after the release last year. This is experimental art writing. She starts out with quick, sometimes one-page chapters, She gets thoughts out there rapid-fire like bullets from a gun. Then later once her shore party has gained a foothold in your mind she goes longer in the sections in hopes of digging in deeper. RECONSIDERING is a tribute to what is a new role model for Lisa, and it’s good to see her stretching. The “Ambassador Of Autism” chapter felt like an afterthought at the end of the book. But of course it was a central motivation for her to write it, as her profoundly mentally disabled boy Wolf turned 18 the same year it was released. If you’re a fan of Lisa Carver you should buy this book. If you are a fan of Yoko Ono you may find it interesting for reasons I can not define. I expected more from this unique writer.

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Links:

Radio interview for NPR: fromthebookshelf.com/Gary_Shapiros_From_The_Bookshelf/Gary_Shapiros_From_the_Bookshelf/Entries/2012/12/2_Lisa_Carver_on_Yoko_Ono.htm

Write up in The New York Times for REACHING OUT WITH NO HANDS:
6thfloor.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/19/yoko-ono-chunky-bars-and-getting-married-on-the-zipper-a-q-a-with-lisa-carver/?smid=fb-share

Book excerpt in The New York Times:
nytimes.com/2012/10/21/magazine/how-i-learned-to-love-yoko-ono.html?smid=fb-share&_r=1&

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