Book review: David Bowie: a Life by Dylan Jones

Here is a little insight into my thoughts these past few weeks:

Ooh, a new book!  Can’t wait to start it.  Wait, I’m already behind with my book reviews so I should do those before I start a new book.

I X, Y, and Z deadline so I will have to work through lunch again today …. but I really need to write those reviews before I forget about what I wanted to write.

I have X, Y, and Z chores to do at home … but I would rather write my reviews … but I should probably cook something because I’m sick of eating frozen pot pies … screw it, I’m going to eat popcorn and catch up on Twitter.

There’s that book I wanted to read.  Oh, wait, reviews …

Anyway, I made my deadlines and managed not to kill anyone in the process so I am rewarding myself by writing up some book reviews.  Yay!

David Bowie by Dylan Jones, is unusual biography in that it is a communal biography.  Rather than the author writing about the subject with some anecdotes thrown in, this book includes stories from people who knew David Bowie.  At first, I was taken aback by the format and kept thinking, ‘what the hell, Dylan Jones?  If this is writing a biography, even I could write one.  You just put together a bunch of different tidbits from people who knew him!’  The more I thought about it, though, the more this clever idea grew on me.

It made for an interesting read because they were mostly first hand accounts.  The first hand accounts allowed for different points of view, which helped alleviate the writer bias that is found in some biographies.  Or, rather, the writer may be biased in the way they saw Bowie, but because there were different points of view portrayed, the reader would be better able to get an accurate picture.  The different personalities gave colorful voice to their passages.  They seemed pretty honest, too.  Much as most of them loved him, David Bowie was not a saint.

I’m sure that Dylan Jones spent a LOT of time gathering the passages and organizing them.  And, to be fair, there are a few of this own passages scattered about this book so it’s not like he was not just an editor.

Before I read this book, I didn’t know much about David Bowie.  I found his music so-so, but didn’t like it enough to really make an effort to find out anything about David Bowie the person.   I never really understood the Bowie hype so reading this book was my attempt at understanding it.

The recurring themes throughout the book were his work ethic and his beauty.  It’s easy to look at someone who is famous and forget about what they had to do to get to that point.  I found it interesting how, even during his druggie years, he showed up to work, ready to work.  So many different people in the book talked about how his physical beauty, and especially loved his eyes (personally, I think his eyes are a little freaky).  Bowie, in the early years, because of his physical beauty, was sexually exploited (though possibly willingly).  He was a bit of a diva, but had a generous heart, for the most part, so the beauty wasn’t just skin deep.

The biggest problem I had with this book was its length.  This thing is massive at 544 pages.  Let me repeat that.  544 pages!  Now, even for a die hard Bowie fan, that might be a stretch.  Do I really need 544 pages of people telling me how beautiful he was?  Seriously, I think  250 pages would have been plenty.  Even 300.  The man led quite a life but it was really, really difficult for me to finish this book.  I took a few breaks and read some other books in between.

To sum it up, well done Dylan Jones for a creative way to “write” a biography.  Bowie would probably have approved of the communal biography.  The stories told are interesting and indulge the reader’s voyeurism.  If you plan on embarking on this epic tome from cover to cover, good luck.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books.




Catching up on my reviews

Yikes, it’s been a while.  I was busy with some work deadlines and then I was busy reading.  There are at least 4 books that I need to review!

The first book that comes to mind is one that I was surprised to find that I liked, namely, Man of Nazareth by Anthony Burgess.  It’s not even in print anymore, but you could visit a library or get a used copy from Amazon.  If the author’s name sounds familiar, you probably recognize his most popular work, A Clockwork Orange.

As an aside, I recently looked up Anthony Burgess on iBooks to see if I could find an electronic version of his books and the selection was pitiful.  It’s so tragic because he is a wonderful author.  I’ve read “A Clockwork Orange” and his Enderby series.  If you don’t know anything about him, you should google something about Anthony Burgess’ life.  He was an amazing man, very intelligent with a gift for linguistics.  I find myself reaching for a dictionary when reading his books.

What separates Anthony Burgess from other authors is that he doesn’t have one “voice.”  With most authors, they develop a “voice” and you hear that voice through all of the books they write.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but I think it’s much harder to have different voices for different books.  If I didn’t ahead of time who the author was, I probably wouldn’t have been able to guess that “Man of Nazareth” and “A Clockwork Orange” were by the same person.

“Man of Nazareth,” as you may have guessed, is about the life of Jesus.  I’ve read the New Testament a few times so I already knew the story, but the way Burgess tells it makes Jesus and the apostles seem more sympathetic, although sympathetic seems to be a vastly underrated term to describe Jesus.  It’s hard to explain.  Perhaps my feelings are best summed up by saying that I knew how the story would end, but I didn’t want the ending to happen because I cared.

If you’re not religious or if you’re not Christian, it doesn’t matter.  You should still read the book because it was fascinating and well written.

Incidentally, there was a television miniseries in the 1970s created based on this book.  The series was called, “Jesus of Nazareth.”  I haven’t seen it so I don’t know if it’s any good or how closely it follows the book.