by Tommy Lee, with Anthony Bozza
Not being a particularly huge Motley Crue fan during my life, I was able to judge drummer Tommy Lee's autobiography largely on its literary merits, free from the biases of fandom. Lee opens Tommyland with the disclaimer, "this book isn't a typical journey in a straight line from day one to day now," which frees him from having to worry about narrative structure and other petty organizational details. The ensuing chaos winds haphazardly through Lee's high-profile marriages to Heather Locklear and Pamela Anderson. Lee's recollections of wooing both women are interesting, but once the Anderson marriage folds, things get boring in a hurry, with Lee filling space with stories about his tattoos, a description of the Jagermeister machine in his house, and "helpful" advice (On having sex while driving: "You've got to be carefulÉ There's no bigger bummer than crashing your car mid fuck.")
For fans of Motley Crue, Tommyland is merely a cool-down from the much more comprehensive The Dirt, a fascinating oral history dictated by the entire band. JUSTIN WESCOAT SANDERS
Elliott Smith and the Big Nothing
by Benjamin Nugent
(Da Capo Press)
Elliott Smith wrote amazing songs, toured across the world, lived in Portland, New York, and LA, battled depression and a drug problem--and generally encountered enough highs and lows to be the subject of an utterly compelling biography. Too bad, then, that Benjamin Nugent's Elliott Smith and the Big Nothing is probably the most painfully boring book I can remember reading.
The collection of interviews with Smith's friends and associates in the aptly titled Big Nothing is pointless and rambling, and it's difficult to follow who is saying what since everyone sounds the same.
Nugent's epiphanies add up to the following: Smith had a normal childhood but didn't like his stepdad. Smith always had a gift for music. Smith was apprehensive about fame, and his popularity alienated him from his friends. Smith had a drug and alcohol problem--but sometimes it wasn't all that bad.
There--you've basically read the book, so save your time and money. KATIE SHIMER
by Anthony Kiedis, with Larry Sloman
Idon't hate Red Hot Chili Peppers' frontman Anthony Kiedis, but I don't want to read 464 pages about his struggles with drug addiction and love affairs. I'll venture to say that much of the target group--namely Peppers fanatics--aren't going to want to read it either.
First of all, too much of the "co-writer" Larry Sloman's voice is apparent. "Anthony" describes getting back to music before Californication: "Despite my elation at our reunion, it took awhile for us to find the groove." Granted, we can expect a good songwriter like Kiedis to also pen good prose, but he can't possibly talk like that.
The two-page introduction about Kiedis and Flea's doped-up adventures "with Mexican gangbangers beneath highway overpasses in the barrio" provides the best writing in the entire book. If you happen to find yourself in possession of the other 462 pages, take Anthony's own advice: "Give it away, give it away, give it away now." WILL GARDNER
Edie: American Girl
by Jean Stein & George Plimpton
Here's an underdog rock star bio classic that must not be overlooked. The oral history is the purest of biographical forms, and Edie is an astonishingly thorough compilation of quotes from a crowd of Edie Sedgwick's eccentric friends, relatives, and acquaintances. Together they paint a marvelously complete view of her through their memories, incorporating the voices of people who felt sorry for her, who hated her, admired her, and loved her. Edie herself is the perfect subject; famous but not too famous (despite Andy Warhol's christening of her as "Superstar"), her story is glittering and ravenous, but the height of her fame was brief and relatively accidental, making Edie the story of a fascinating girl rather than the more tedious tracking of a career. MARJORIE SKINNER