Sunday, June 23, 2013

Things the Grandchildren Should Know

Things the Grandchildren Should Know, Mark Oliver Everett
Read: 7 December to 11 December 2010
5 / 5 stars

This is what every memoir should aspire to be.

I started listening to the Eels in high school. I haven’t devoured their tunes as actively as I used to in the past few years (even if Blinking Lights and Other Revelations was the best five dollars I’ve ever spent); that being said, I didn’t even make it halfway through this book without launching a massive attack on iTunes to download whatever albums of Mr. E’s I didn’t already own.

This book satisfied me in so many ways as a reader, as a music lover and as a fan of the author. Aside from enjoying the weirdly satisfying progression of E as an artist and watching his musical career blossom, I found myself undeniably drawn to his personality. I kept thinking that he seems like the kind of guy who deserves every ounce of fame he’s garnered over the course of his wobbly career. And I wanted to feel like less of a dick for dismissing albums like Shootenanny! and Souljacker, especially now that I understand their place against the landscape of the artist’s life (and the two albums most definitely deserved a second chance).

I never really considered the origins of or stories behind so many of the Eels tunes I’ve loved for years. Knowing what was going on in E’s life and what inspired him to write the kind of songs he did made me wish there were more musicians who posses his integrity and raw passion. His love of music most assuredly intensified mine.

For all the awful, heart-wrenching tragedies that have befallen a single man, E maintains an outlook that is admirably devoid of self pity’s trappings while embracing a searing truthfulness that’s only made more enjoyable by his knack for humorous observation and witty phrasing, all of which balances out the not-always-perfect writing more than adequately enough for me. There isn’t a drop of bullshit to be found in these 256 pages, which is remarkable for such a poignantly honest look inward. E displays his reactions, thoughts, feelings, perspective and aspirations with a refreshingly straightforward narrative.

The bonus of E’s encounters with a plethora of other musical artists I love – Elliott Smith, most significantly – and his eclectic range of creative influences is a delight for the music lover in me. He loves so many of the same bands I do, he attended concerts I only wish I’d been alive to see, he respects so many of the musical acts (both past and current) that I just adore. Finding out that I share so many of the same tastes with this alt-rock star just made the reading experience all the more personal.

The journey of self-discovery that’s at the heart of this book, just like the song with which it shares a title, is what every terrified loner needs to experience. Knowing that someone has had so many of the unnervingly similar thoughts, fears and dreams as I have, and knowing that the someone in question has triumphed so very impressively in the face of things that would strike down a lesser individual, instilled in me a sense of hope and companionship that I have never found in any of the hundreds of other books I’ve read.

I couldn’t help but like Mr. E more and more with every page. And I am more convinced than ever that the man is nothing short of a national treasure.

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