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John Lennon: The Life Hardcover – October 28, 2008
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From Bookmarks Magazine
Critics generally praised John Lennon: The Life, though they often seemed shocked at how much hate and violence could be found in one of the 20th century's most famous proponents of peace and love. Some were also taken aback by the book's length—over 800 pages for a figure who famously lived only to age 40. But most reviewers concluded that the bulk of this biography was appropriate, not only because Norman is the first author to investigate Lennon in such detail but because his sense for which details are interesting (a well-developed portrayal of the young Lennon's Liverpool) and which are not (Beatles ephemera) keeps the book moving at a steady pace.
Copyright 2008 Bookmarks Publishing LLC
“[A] haunting, mammoth, terrific piece of work.” (New York Times Book Review)
“It’s this level of detail that makes Norman’s 822 pages such compulsive reading.” (Bloomberg News)
“[Norman] sharpens what we know about Lennon at just about every turn…devotees will relish the new information, while casual readers will find a familiar story told more truly than ever before.” (Rolling Stone)
“[Norman’s] definitive biography draws impressively on exclusive and extensive interviews with Yoko Ono and, for the first time on the record, their son Sean…densely detailed, intricately woven and elegantly told, John Lennon: The Life neither condemns nor condones, nor does it consecrate its subject. (USA Today)
“The bad news is that John Lennon: The Life is so rich and enveloping that it demands to be read…it’s a clear-eyed and compassionate study of a man...Grade: A-.” (Entertainment Weekly)
“Powerful and heartfelt.” (Washington Post Book World)
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Top customer reviews
And I suppose the big question is still; Who broke up the Beatles? Clearly the death of Brian Epstein was a factor but it also seems clear John was determined to leave and used Yoko as a wedge to make that happen. it was just never going to work having her in the studio and the idea of her providing input on the music made it worse. a damn shame but they left behind a treasure trove. John's death is still one of the seminal moments in my life. We know from Double Fantasy that there was much more to come.
The problem with biograph-izing a long gone hero is that the social and political norms of the 40 or 50 years ago differ greatly from today, and what sounds irrational or a little `out-there` to us today was reasonable in context back then. And vice-versa too -- I'm sure we'd be considered a little out-there to those of the '60's and '70's. Yoko had the advantage of speaking in the now, and of course her comments about the past (having been interviewed in the present) seemed perfectly reasonable in retrospect. I thought she came off pretty well in the book despite eventually un-endorsing it just before publication (according to the book's afterword). Norman does pretty well at scaling the two epochs even though his subject's words came from a man outside of time.
You quickly sense that Norman is not a musician. A word man instead of a cadence man. While he had a good working knowledge of the lyrical side of John's compositions, what he didn't have was an understanding of their musicality.
I did finish this huge read and felt I had accomplished something, and I enjoyed most of it. But I do confess eventually I found myself rapidly hitting my reader's page-turn button, flying past a lot of the family stuff until I got to the tales of the next Beatles or post-Beatles album project. John Lennon's life was about his tremendous contribution to 20th century music. To me, how it came to be is not as important as why it came to be.