New Release Books by Neal Karlen

Neal Karlen is the author of This Thing Called Life (2020), Babes in Toyland (2013), Augie’s Secrets (2014), The Story of Yiddish (2008) and other 6 books.

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This Thing Called Life

release date: Oct 06, 2020
This Thing Called Life
A warm and surprisingly real-life biography, featuring never-before-seen photos, of one of rock’s greatest talents: Prince. Neal Karlen was the only journalist Prince granted in-depth press interviews to for over a dozen years, from before Purple Rain to when the artist changed his name to an unpronounceable glyph. Karlen interviewed Prince for three Rolling Stone cover stories, wrote “3 Chains o’ Gold,” Prince’s “rock video opera,” as well as the star’s last testament, which may be buried with Prince’s will underneath Prince’s vast and private compound, Paisley Park. According to Prince's former fiancée Susannah Melvoin, Karlen was “the only reporter who made Prince sound like what he really sounded like.” Karlen quit writing about Prince a quarter-century before the mega-star died, but he never quit Prince, and the two remained friends for the last thirty-one years of the superstar’s life. Well before they met as writer and subject, Prince and Karlen knew each other as two of the gang of kids who biked around Minneapolis’s mostly-segregated Northside. (They played basketball at the Dairy Queen next door to Karlen’s grandparents, two blocks from the budding musician.) He asserts that Prince can’t be understood without first understanding ‘70s Minneapolis, and that even Prince’s best friends knew only 15 percent of him: that was all he was willing and able to give, no matter how much he cared for them. Going back to Prince Rogers Nelson's roots, especially his contradictory, often tortured, and sometimes violent relationship with his father, This Thing Called Life profoundly changes what we know about Prince, and explains him as no biography has: a superstar who calls in the middle of the night to talk, who loved The Wire and could quote from every episode of The Office, who frequented libraries and jammed spontaneously for local crowds (and fed everyone pancakes afterward), who was lonely but craved being alone. Readers will drive around Minneapolis with Prince in a convertible, talk about movies and music and life, and watch as he tries not to curse, instead dishing a healthy dose of “mamma jammas.”

Babes in Toyland

release date: Jul 24, 2013
Babes in Toyland
Babes in Toyland is a rare peek into the glamorous and tough world of rock and roll—an exclusive backstage pass for anyone who has ever fantasized about starting a band, being discovered by a major label, recording an album, and touring the country to play music in front of thousands. Also, with its revealing look at the record business—an industry that makes the rest of show business seem positively tame—this book is as immediate as a new issue of Rolling Stone, as colorful as a good mystery, and as tart and explosive as a top-ten hit. Told with the gritty, up-close feel of a behind-the-scenes documentary film, this is the story of three young women who wanted to play rock and roll like the boys. It follows their coming together in the underground grunge-rock scene in Minneapolis, their early club days, and their discovery by Warner Bros. Records. It tracks their dramatic breakup (and reconfiguration), goes through the often funny, sometimes inspiring, and always emotional recording sessions for their album Fontanelle, and goes stage-side as they film their all-important video for MTV. Veteran journalist Neal Karlen was given unprecedented access to Warners marketing and strategy meetings, where he observed firsthand the star-making machinery that runs the pop music business. From punk rockers in the mosh pit to rock stars in mansions, Babes in Toyland contains revealing snapshots of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, Soul Asylum's Dave Pirner, Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, and R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe, as well as Beavis and Butt-head, today's most powerful rock critics. Center-stage in this story are the members of Babes in Toyland: Kat Bjelland, the punk-rock poetess who'd dreamed of being a star since she was five years old; Lori Barbero, the dreadlocked drummer and band mother who was best friend to everybody in the alternative music scene; and Maureen Herman, the brainy bassist who struggled to fit in with the group. There's also Tim Carr, the Warner Bros. A & R man who saw in the Babes the talent and drive to make it to the top of the grunge scene. Finally, there's Babes in Toyland's triumphant spot on the 1993 Lollapalooza, the most prestigious tour in rock and roll. In this real-life version of The Commitments, readers will also see how success can do more to damage a band of best friends than failure.

Augie’s Secrets

release date: Nov 22, 2014
Augie’s Secrets
“Karlen offers a colorful and impressively researched account of the Minneapolis underworld and his fascinating relative that feels right out of Damon Runyon’s Guys and Dolls.” Star Tribune “Deliciously snappy.” American Jewish World “Karlen brings back the days when Peggy Lee walked into Augie’s straight off the bus from North Dakota, when mid-century celebrities like Frank Sinatra visited Hennepin Avenue, and when the most powerful crime lords in the land checked their guns at the door when they visited Augie’s.” MinnPost “Augie’s Secrets is filled with stunning, stylish prose that captures the flavor of the Jewish underworld of downtown Minneapolis down to its last rubout and pastrami sandwich.” Paul Maccabee, author of John Dillinger Slept Here: A Crooks’ Tour of Crime and Corruption in St. Paul, 1920–1936

The Story of Yiddish

release date: Apr 08, 2008
The Story of Yiddish
Yiddish is a mirror of Jewish history, thought, and practice--for better and worse. Karlen charts the beginning of Yiddish as a minor dialect in medieval Europe that helped peasant Jews live safely apart from the marauders of the First Crusades. Incorpora

Augie's Secrets

release date: Jan 01, 2013
Augie's Secrets
A treasury of family secrets exposes the seamy underbelly of Minneapolis--gangsters, gambling, brothels, and the social life of organized crime.

Shanda

release date: Jan 01, 2004
Shanda
Neal Karlen describes the rejection and subsequent embrace of the Jewish faith, remembering his childhood as the son of Orthodox parents, the self-loathing that changed his spiritual perspective, and his participation in devotional studies.

Slouching Toward Fargo:

release date: Mar 07, 2000
Slouching Toward Fargo:
The author of Babes In Toyland describes his twoyear odyssey with the St. Paul Saints, a minor league baseball team, describing the outrageous exploits and adventures of a team, owned by comedian Bill Murray, made up of a motley assortment of hasbeens, hopefuls, rejects, and oddball characters. Reprint.

Jen-X

release date: Jan 01, 1997
Jen-X
Presented in the form of a "diary," a portrait of Jenny McCarthy captures the day-to-day drama, action, and humor of the star

The Babe in Boyland

release date: Jan 01, 1996
The Babe in Boyland
The first woman to host her own national talk-radio sports show speaks her mind about the world of sports, the fans, and sports executives

Take My Life, Please!

release date: Jan 01, 1992
Take My Life, Please!
The celebrated violin-playing funnyman discusses his courtship with his oft-mentioned wife, his stellar career, the audiences for whom he has played--among them Queen Elizabeth and Dutch Schultz--and more. (Biography).
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