Top critical review
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An enjoyable and entertaining mess of a book.
on March 14, 2004
Reading Two of Us : The Story of a Father, a Son, and the Beatles by Peter Smith I was reminded of one of my own Beatle moments growing up. I was over at a friend's house waiting for him to finish getting ready to go watch a baseball game. His younger brother, then in 6th grade I'd imagine, and I were watching the American Bandstand show where the first films of the Beatles in their Sgt. Pepper facial hair was showing. After the film Dick Clark was asking some of the teen girls in the audience what they thought. "Yuck! They're so old looking and ugly" was the consensus. I remember turning to Roger and asking what he thought? "Those girls better get used to it," Roger said, "because in 3 months everybody's gonna look like that". A statement that proved to be very prophetic.
I mention this because as you read Two of Us you will have many such recollections, both dealing with your own youth and adolescence as well as those of your kid's if you are a parent. And that is what makes this book so enjoyable-you are flashing back over your own life and experiences as you share those of Peter Smith and his son. The shared experience adds greatly to the narrative and makes reading this book a very personal sort of experience.
Unfortunately, it's a somewhat disappointing experience as well. The problem is that Smith takes this work in a lot of directions that may have been meaningful for him personally but are pretty much boringly meaningless detail to the reader. There's a lot of introspection about the relationship between the author and his father-an entity so fleetingly described as to be little more than a caricature to the reader. Thus, all the prose associated with the comparison of Smiths relationship to his dad and comparing that to his relationship to his son is more irritating than enlightening.
Smith is also wont to let his metro-sexual side intrude into the text. That he thinks his son is "beautiful" is ok-but he keeps using that phrase throughout the book. The touchy-feely aspects of the book wear one down after a while.
Lastly, there's a dissonance to the thread of the book. The Beatles bring son and father together and, as could be expected, eventually, as the boy grows, that's not enough any more. They grow out of this device. There is no indication that Smith is working on a way to keep the relationship alive outside a Beatles context. This is supposed to be a book about an adult trying to engage a youth-yet the adult seems to be the one who's having trouble growing and communicating here.
However, for a time there is a connecting through the vortex of the Beatles, and there are some magical aspects to this relationship and the story of it. In the end one is left with a sense of wonder that has more to do with the Beatles than with this father-son combo-what's is the power of their existence that creates a dynamic that can, and often does, bridge generations? If the book does one thing well, it's stimulate the reader to examine that phenomenon within the context of his own experience. In the end the power of the book is that Sam and Peter's experience highlights and reveals our own experiences.