To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Torment Saint: The Life of Elliott Smith Hardcover – October 1, 2013
Wiley Architecture, Construction, & Design Sale
Save up to 40% on select architecture, construction, and design guides during August. Learn more.
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
From Publishers Weekly
Top Customer Reviews
My first impression of this book was the unbearable way Elliott's lyrics were woven into the narrative of the book. Others have mentioned it and it's the most obvious flaw. And unfortunately the one that makes the book tough to take seriously regularly throughout the entirety of it....all the way down to the last chapter.
A pretty typical example:
"Figure 8 also unpacks a conspicuous army-related theme, the generals, sergeants, non-commissioned officers all showing up at different junctures. A sergeant, for instance, breaks the key off in a lock in "Color Bars," pinning Elliott in the place he comes from. Veiled suicide references appear as everyone wants Elliott to ride into the sunset but he battles back, for the moment, declaring, 'I ain't gonna go down," a phrase he was drawn to as a symbol of giving up and losing all hope..." and continues later on with, "He's an army man, ordered to march where he stands, as a "dead enemy" springs and wails in his face."
This type of narrative, literally interpreting Elliott's lyrics and weaving them into the story, continues throughout the book and is, at times, unbearable and very much cringeworthy at times.Read more ›
The only drawback in this first half, one which occurs throughout the book, is Schultz's use of lyric snippets from Smith's songs to garnish some particular moment, explicitly referencing which song that lyrics derives from every time this device is employed. This tactic, used far too frequently to retain any charm, quickly begins to grate and distract from the text.
The second half of the book, starting around the release of the self titled album, meditates on that album's preoccupation with heroin by someone who at that point was not a user. This is an intriguing observation, but it also marks the starting point of a narrative shift. The complexity of the subject slowly begins to dilute into that of a tortured genius gradually plummeting towards death. Who constructs this narrative? Schultz is the author, but he is not entirely responsible for this. For one, what Schultz has at his disposal is ultimately sparse. All he can rely is the music, published interviews, and oral histories from friends and collaborators, and then only those willing to share.Read more ›
Then there's that pesky issue of memory getting in the way. Do you really know what you think you know? Did it really go down the way you remember it? Since you're putting it in your own words, wouldn't it be tempting to make yourself look just a teeny bit better? And then there's the last taboo: old Death itself. Nobody wants to dwell on it too much, especially if there is a question concerning the cause. The messier a beloved's end was, the more one wants to find a scapegoat. There are people to this day who believe Mozart was murdered.
Often the biggest obstacle in knowing a person is that person himself. Case in point: Elliott Smith, who put himself out as Mr. Misery, The Saddest Man In The Land, and then resented it that people saw him that way. He would laugh about ways to fail, do a 180 mood swing into volunteering unasked about killing your emotions, you know, with drugs and alcohol, and then go back to laughing... being cut off in the video before concluding "The pendulum swings back and forth."
The controversy over Elliott's death isn't limited to journalists and authors.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Maybe if William Todd Schultz spent less time quoting lyrics and naming street junctions of places Elliott Smith went to one time and actually did some research, this would be a... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
I picked this book up on sale without reading a word of it but when i got it home I found that beyond the first page or so it became impossible to read - just a wall of words. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Sometimer
Unlike the recent documentary, Torment Saint brings Elliott Smith into focus as a true American artist who made music simply because he loved music and was passionately moved by... Read morePublished 11 months ago by Sandy Frazier
I'm a huge fan of Elliott Smiths music, so to learn about the history behind the songs and his relationships was rewarding. Read morePublished 12 months ago by mike barsoomian
This is a skewed and extremely limited look at the life and times of one of our most prolific and talented songwriters/musicians, Mr. Elliott Smith. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Mary L. Hyland
The best biography on Smith that I've read. A lot more informative with far more depth than the others.Published 17 months ago by James P. Walsh