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Elliott Smith Hardcover – November 1, 2007

4.4 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Significant Seven, December 2007: Laden with all kinds of PostSecret-era ephemera, as well as pages and pages of outtakes from DeWilde's photo shoots with Smith and fascinating discussions between the author and Smith's contemporaries, Elliott Smith is a stunning example of how a tribute book should be made. DeWilde's photography is stark and intimate but never probing, and what comes across is as real a portrait of Elliott Smith as any fan may ever see. Thumbing through the book I was often reminded of a reluctant child, standing quietly yet somehow furiously, waiting for the scrutiny he's suffering to end--it's the same kind of sweet, sublimated emotion that makes his songs (for me, anyway) so powerfully good. That's the beauty of this book: it shows you the artist that you want to see, yet protects Smith from the kind of rueful sentiment one might expect to be lurking here. (P.S. The bonus CD featuring Smith's cover of "All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down" is worth the price of admission alone.) --Anne Bartholomew

About the Author

Autumn de Wilde directed Elliott's video for "Son of Sam" and created the packaging for his album Figure 8; the cover image of him in front of a wall in L.A. led to the site becoming a spontaneous memorial for the singer after his death. She has also worked with Spoon, Death Cab for Cutie, the Raconteurs, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Jenny Lewis, Fiona Apple, and others. She lives in Los Angeles.

Beck Hansen has collaborated with de Wilde for many years, most recently on photographs and videos for his album The Information.

Chris Walla is a guitarist for the band Death Cab for Cutie and has worked as a producer with numerous bands.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books; Har/Com edition (November 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811857999
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811857994
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 1 x 10.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #443,004 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Beth on November 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Don't get me wrong, the pictures are great in this book. It's some of the interviews that are somewhat frustrating to me. The intro is basically a conversation Beck and Chris have glorifying Autumn. I know this is a book with her photographs, but it made the book seem very tacky from the start.

I don't like that de Wilde chose to interview some people who didn't even know Elliott. I also felt that she related everything back to herself much too often. Several of her comments feel awkward and inappropriate, and I feel that they should have been edited out. For instance, there is one point in the book where she brings up another book she's working on in an interview (with Chris Walla I believe it was?). She says something about how it is her best work. Whether or not this is an attempt at humor, it is clumsy and trivial. Consequently, these conversational excursions prove incoherent and messy, subtracting from the overall focus of the book.

Another example of de Wilde focusing attention on herself is when she talks about how she could've had a romantic relationship with Elliott the first day she met him. Instead, she says she used sheer willpower and resisted the temptation. It seems like she doesn't think he could've refused her. The way she states her ideas sometimes suggests that she thinks very highly of herself.

Other than these points that I found irritating, the other interviews provided some good insights. I wish she had interviewed other people though (I would've preferred an interview with Elliott's parents or his brother). The book overlooks some major topics; only one sentence is dedicated to his stint in rehab while his self injury and previous flirtation with suicide are completely overlooked.
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Format: Hardcover
This is not an easy book. The photos are diverse, from polaroids of Elliott goofing off to more polished stills that were used in the video for "Son of Sam" or cover art for Figure 8. More telling are the ones where deWilde dared and Elliott allowed her to get get closer, giving us the opportunity to be face to face and eye to eye with the man.

Tougher than looking into the blue glarestare of Elliott Smith is working through the interviews. I agree that this is for the passionate fan--this is not a rough sketch of his biography, nor does it bank on his tragic tug-of-wars with self-destruction. It does not skimp on details, but what you'll be learning is Elliott's fondness for clowns, his antics as his sister's personal hairdresser, what he requests he sent up on napkins nights Jon Brion was playing, the bar fights (yes, bar fights) he got into, his guilty pleasure artists and songs. This is the story of a person, not a persona. And as such, it relates directly back to the people talking and how he touched them. There are interviews with old friends, girlfriends, and roommates as well as one particularly moving conversation with his younger sister. These interviews, though adoring through sincere love of who he was and what he did and how that was important to everyone on a wide-spread but still entirely personal and individual scale, are not grandiose praises of the tortured artist. They are documents of memories and insightful, self-aware human reactions to somebody that we used to know: I hate you for leaving, I love you for being.

In the opening conversation between Beck and Chris Walla, they talk about the appeal of a series of photos because they tell a story. Not just the decisive moment, the perfect photo, but the collection.
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Format: Hardcover
It's amazing how many people around Elliot Smith were using him (and continue to use him) to funnel attention to themselves, and Autumn de Wilde is no different. No wonder he was so confused. The parts of the interviews wherein Elliot Smith is mentioned are great; invariably, however, she interrupts and brings the conversation back to herself and her brief experiences with the man. If she would have just let Joanna Bolme talk, or one of the people who knew him well, I would have been ecstatic, but no.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a beauty. The photos speak for themselves, and if you're an Elliott Smith fan you've seen much of Autumn de Wilde's work over the years, even if you don't know it.

But what is most understated in this being a "photo book" is that it contains some of the most personal and heartfelt interviews ever conducted about Elliott. Autumn was great at capturing the contrast between the depth and severity of Elliott's depression, and the less-covered joy and happiness that Elliott so often shared with and brought to his friends. The Jon Brion interview was particularly touching, as he talked about Elliott both as a musician and a friend.

It doesn't provide a breadth of new information, but the first-hand accounts from those who knew Elliott best are worth reading for any fan. It was enjoyable to see how one man's genius touched so many people in different ways.
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Format: Hardcover
As a previous reviewer stated, this is a must-have item for fans of Elliott Smith.

Autumn's pictures are absolutely enchanting - she captures expressions and moods that would surprise those who think of Elliott Smith as a constantly brooding, somber outsider. Although he could certainly fit that description at times, these photos and anecdotes from his friends and loved ones show another side that even his throngs of adoring fans might not recognize.

The conversations included in the book were conducted with some of his closest acquaintances - former bandmates, ex-girlfriends, past room mates, friends he spent hours discussing and playing music with, etc. Their perspectives and personal stories really add a great deal of soul to a person who was already a very deep, soulful person.

Reading the book, it's clear that Elliott's fans aren't the only ones who adored him, and they certainly aren't the only ones who miss him. Where other account's of Smith's life have fallen short (not naming any names), this very generous book succeeds in its ability to bring fans into his circle of friends, even if just for a little while. Cumulatively, it offers fans a tremendously inviting and warm atmosphere, where there is much to be discovered.

Best of all, there are moments to be found here - whether its within one small detail from a friend or a brief smile in a particular photo - when it almost feels like he's back with us again. And that's probably the most ringing endorsement I can give this book.
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