13 August, 2011

Looking through a Glass Onion

The Walrus was Ringo; 101 Beatles Myths Debunked

Alan Clayson and Spencer Leigh

I was delighted to find this in the library the other day; i’ve never heard of it before, that i remember, but the title alone grabbed me, and the subtitle made it clear that this was going to be a book i read soon and quickly. And so it proved. It does, for the most part, live up to its billing, though there are a few nits to be picked.

As Chenowyth mentioned after looking at it for an hour or so on the beach the other day, some of the “myths” aren’t really ~ i.e., they’re not well known ideas, or no one really believes them ~ and some of the “debunks” are rather petty, quarrelling with semantics in order to make the number up to 101. Nevertheless, though, sufficient are well known and countered well enough to make the book as a whole worth the time. There are a couple of other points, however, which i must make.

First, it’s rather poor form for a book which complains at least twice in its bibliography about other books without indices not to have an index itself; i suppose i can see the argument, “It would just be a lot of entries about John, Paul, George, and Ringo, so we won’t” but it’s hardly a convincing one.

Second, there is an Afterword, “Just Like Starting Over”, which seems to have absolutely no contact with the rest of the book, as it is apparently an imagined newspaper story anticipating the return to playing music of John Lennon in 1980, after not having played since being kicked out of the Beatles in 1962; no explanation given, no reason for the presence of this afterword, and really no point to it in the context of the book. Certainly as a bit of counter-factual history, interestingly imagined, but entirely useless here. I really do wonder, sometimes, about what authors are thinking as they write, or editors as they publish: Do they imagine that everything has value and must be inserted somewhere, even if it doesn’t fit?

In the end, though, despite both these points, which really are problems with the editing, which certainly needed to be done better, the book is sufficiently strong and interesting to overcome these weaknesses; i’m glad.

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