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.