Hollywood Park is a memoir by Mikel Jollet, who some of you may know as the lead singer of The Airborne Toxic Event (the band has been around since 2008, but their haunting name could not be more appropriate than it is in 2020). Only 46 years old when he wrote the book, Jollet had already endured lifetimes of pain and misfortune as he navigated through experiences I can only describe as jaw-dropping (and not in a good way).
For starters, Jollet is born into the controversial Synanon cult that lived just below the Hollywood Sign in the ’60s and ’70s). He manages to survive, but life after the cult is difficult and dangerous in its own way.
Surrounded by addiction and poverty, Jollett lives with his mentally-ill mother who has a loose grasp on reality and highly questionable taste in men, not to mention having to contend with his own lingering questions and pain from his early days in the cult. As you can imagine, it’s a hard story to digest, especially knowing the book is a memoir, but his words and writing are so magical, it’s worth any feelings of discomfort.
As a reader, I was intensely waiting and cheering for Jollett to get to the crossroads where his life takes finally a turn for the better. I plowed through the book, and as soon as I put it down, I immediately downloaded some Airborne Toxic Event music. I wanted to continue to enjoy his hauntingly beautiful prose, especially after gaining a unique insight into the songs’ themes and lyrics.
THE FINAL WORD: You don’t have to be a fan of indie rock or post-punk revival (or even know what they are, for that matter) to be drawn in by Hollywood Park. If you like superbly-written memoirs and stories of survival (like another favorite of mine Educated), you, too will give this book two thumbs up.
A special shout out to my beloved “word dealer” Ron Block for sending this remarkable book my way.