Quick Bit of Lit Crit

It’s my 37th birthday. I’m alone, tipsy, melancholy… a normal February evening.

I’ve been reading a bunch of rock books. These are always good to read, a strange combination of brain candy and inspiration. What follows is the first-ever WP literary review…

Life, by Keith Richards

MSM baby boomers were really excited about this one. I love the Stones (up until the early ‘70s or so, natch) so I was excited to read it too. I have to say it was a little underwhelming. It’s very obvious that the ghostwriter simply had Keith talk his ear off and then transcribed it. I’m fully aware that’s how most autobiographies are written, but in this case it was really blatant. Clearly it was an authorial decision to literally capture the voice, but it was captured a little too authentically, complete with the narrator repeating himself, saying things like “you know what I mean?” and so on. Ultimately it’s a bit like being accosted at a bar by a sozzled senior, who has a lot of great yarns but is still kind of annoying. There’s also a lack of self-awareness that shines through, as you might expect from an addled multi-gazillionaire with a golden horseshoe up his ass. It does have a lot of good stories, though, and I like the nerdy parts where he talks about things like how he tunes his guitar.

Just Kids, by Patti Smith

This got a lot of good reviews too, and I think in this case they were deserved. The book is all about Smith’s relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe when they were struggling artists in New York City back in the day. I liked how Smith honestly portrays her young self as a total dilletante, who wanted to be an artist but didn’t know exactly what she would do and just kind of floundered around for years. It’s no doubt politically incorrect to say so, but just as Richards exhibits typically male characteristics—selfishness, macho posturing, clueless insensitivity—Smith’s book is very feminine in a flaky, witchy kind of way. But her writing style is beautifully simple, and the story is touching and inspiring.

Black Postcards, by Dean Wareham

This came out last year or so and more or less slipped under the radar—somewhat appropriately for the perpetually underrated singer of Galaxie 500, Luna, and now Dean and Britta. Unlike Richards or Smith he never rose to legendary status, and he tells it like it is about the unglamourous side of the music business. The Harvard-educated Wareham is a really good writer—dry, to the point, and sharply critical of others, of trends and music-business sleaze, and—again, unlike Smith or Richards—of himself.

One thing all three books have in common is passages including the writer’s lyrics. Generally, they do not hold up well on the page. It’s almost enough to make me accept David Thomas’ dictum that “printing lyrics is a Bad Thing.”

But I’m being overly critical myself—they are all good reads.

That’s all for now. Last night we finished the final tweaks to the mastering of the new WP album. Exciting. More news on this soon.

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