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What Is It All but Luminous: Notes from an Underground Man Hardcover – September 26, 2017
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Acclaim for Art Garfunkel’s
WHAT IS IT ALL BUT LUMINOUS
“Garfunkel reveals flashes of real insight about the transcendent power of music and the inner workings of a singer’s life.”
About the Author
ART GARFUNKEL attended Columbia University, where he earned a master's degree in mathematics. He performed with Paul Simon as Simon & Garfunkel from 1963 to 1970. Garfunkel, with Paul Simon, has been the recipient of six Grammys, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 1990 was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Garfunkel lives in New York with his wife and two children. He continues to travel around the world giving concert performances, and since 1973 has produced twelve solo albums.
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Artie is a big fan of James Joyce (stream-of-consciousness); to enjoy 25 of the 27 chapters, you must have great patience with vagueness, haziness, and mood (rather than detail). There are paragraphs (and pages) where you will feel lost about who/what/when/where/why.
Most readers know that Artie WALKED across America; I was unaware that he also walked across Europe and Japan. He keeps track of his pace (53 steps per minute, seventeen miles per day). A "numbers guy," he also keeps track of the number of books he's read (1,219) as well as the total number of pages. (He ALMOST pursued a PhD in mathematics.)
Artie has studied every word (275,000 words) of the Random House Dictionary (1,664 pages), which he read from Z to A. He makes lists of words that enchant him (syrinx, sciamachy) and uses these words in his poetry. (Page 58: "Eyes wet and radiant with a shehecheyanu.") Depending on your perspective (and tolerance of poetry), you'll either find such wordplay to be pretentious or profound. (Page 121: "I walk alone in Burgundian wonder: to Byzantium still.")
The author's deep love of his wife and two sons in obvious in every chapter and in the many photos. Little of the book deals with his Simon and Garfunkel days; even less of it describes the time he spent in the studio working on S-and-G albums or his solo albums.
For those of you who want to read about the Simon and Garfunkel days and for those who want to DEEPLY understand both Paul and Artie, I strongly recommend 'HOMEWARD BOUND' by Peter Ames Carlin (copyright 2016). To say that Carlin did his homework is an extraordinary understatement.
Are you looking for insight into Simon and Garfunkel's career? Forget it. He says near the beginning that someday he may write about it but not now. What in the world does he think we're reading the book for then?
Instead we get him crossing America, saying virtually nothing about his trip. Then him crossing Europe. In between are a few comments about how great he is as a singer, how his gift is from above. He overpraises his wife and firstborn son as well, and almost ignores his second child. He glosses over the suicide of his girlfriend. He's mad that his Christmas album wasn't promoted properly (isn't he Jewish?). Then a few sentences are asides about his strained relationship with Simon (which Garfunkel claims started when they were teens and Simon was recording songs behind Garfunkel's back) but there are no details or stories.
How does one write a book with no stories yet name drop some of the biggest stars of music and film? Either he was heavily drugged when he jotted these notes over the years (which he admits to having been under the influence of) or he doesn't know how to write (although he claims to have read over 1200 books, even giving you a list of what he recommends you read!).
If you are even thinking about buying this book, don't! If you must read it, save the money and go to the library. It's virtually not worth more than a few cents, because most of it makes no sense. Never has a publisher, editor, and author more misjudged what the audience is looking for. Give us his real autobiography instead.