She wouldn’t know me if I splashed my steaming latte onto her faded, ripped Megadeth t-shirt accidentally while bumping my way through the crowded line at Starbucks. Oh, ma’am, I-am-SO-sorry! Yet, I feel like she’s become my new best friend. SPOILER ALERT: I don’t cast spoilers!
While I confess openly to being an avid non-fiction reader, I don’t know the luxury of having an abundance of free reading time — especially given that I’m a VERY slow reader. Truth be told, it takes me up to 50 minutes just to read and process the baking instructions on a box of Mrs. Paul’s frozen fish sticks. Hence, it’s quite a telling testament that I burned through Anna-Marie O’Brien’s 350+ page debut memoir, Adventures of a Metalhead Librarian in under 48 hours.
They’ve become two of the most pedestrian cliches used in book reviews — #1) “An engaging page-turner” and #2) “I couldn’t put it down.” But, honestly, O’Brien paralyzed me at Page One. In fact, I literally couldn’t perform any physical functions requiring more than one hand for two full days. Wait. What?
If Mötley Crüe’s “Live Wire” doesn’t get your blood pumping, not much will:
When O’Brien refers early on to LA’s one-time billboard queen, Angelyne as a “bubblegum saint,” I knew I’d come to the right place. And any gal who gushes over The London Quireboys and Salty Dog is a gal who I need to know. And through her book, I do know her now. Well, sorta.
The premise is appealing — a small town teenage girl arrives in the big city in pursuit of her rock and roll dream, just like a scene out of a classic music video from one of O’Brien’s worshiped heavy metal gods. But what she delivers is so much greater — a courageous, heart-stopping tale of personal trials, tragedies and ultimate triumph. And her personal back story is every bit as compelling as her subsequent salacious Hollywood confessions.
O’Brien shares her riveting, deeply personal and transparent coming-of-age story in vivid detail — allowing readers to practically smell the manure on her dad’s Michigan farm while feeling her frustration as she struggles to escape her humdrum Midwest life and ultimately tasting the heartbreaking realities of LA.
Through all of her many traumas, O’Brien found constant solace in music and books — particularly heavy metal music and books of all kinds, from cozy romance to real life murder mysteries to fictional fantasies. The union of these seemingly unlikely bedfellows would one day help earn O’Brien the unique distinction as the “Metalhead Librarian.”
Guns N’ Roses’ song “Welcome To The Jungle” makes sense here ‘cause, well, LA is as, a Jungle:
A poetic wordsmith and master storyteller, O’Brien hooked me, in short order, and she kept me reeled in through to her moving conclusion. In an opening chapter, she describes the first night experiencing her real-life Hollywood dream come true — “It was a warm evening and the city sparkled, diamonds under a sapphire sky.” Doggonit, that’s good stuff. While the narrative does jump around a bit, I hardly found that jarring. In fact, it kept me on my toes.
For those blessed to have lived through those fast times, O’Brien’s authentic accounts will stir up a sense of nostalgia — making frantic calls back home on a roadside — payphone, rigging a makeshift car stereo utilizing her trusty Walkman and watching weekly episodes of Miami Vice. And through her rapid-fire references to iconic locales and legendary musicians, Adventures of a Metalhead Librarian often reads like a college crash course in LA pop culture history.
For a guy like me, who still grapples with my long-term dysfunctional, delusional romance with the City of Angels, O’Brien’s story was an oddly painful feel-good that ripped open many scabs from emotional wounds inflicted while pursuing my own similar dream, during the glorious aerosol-sprayed decade of decadence.
Even “In My Darkest Hour” Megadeth is always a good idea.
Veteran rock journalist and former RIP Magazine editor Lonn Friend provides the book’s crisp foreword. In a recent interview, Friend described O’Brien’s story as a “sojourn of courage.” Well put, indeed.
For those who loved (or who still love) the high-energy music from the arena rock era, and or, those who remain fascinated by the legendary, glitzy LA scene, Adventures of a Metalhead Librarian is a must-read (pedestrian book review cliche #3), as O’Brien’s voice is honest and pure. In sum, come for the sex, drugs & rock and roll (there’s plenty), but stay for the story — a sensational story that rendered me breathless!
Author: Anna-Marie O’Brien
Foreword: Lonn M. Friend
Publisher: Anna-Marie O’Brien
Release Date: September 6, 2019
Format / Length: Paperback / 360 Pages