Knopf; First Edition edition
Something like starting from the beginning feels like the right thing to do…
Do you remember that clip of Art Garfunkel talking absolute-fucking-balderdash between takes in the studio? For his memoir he’s essentially done the same thing. Why this could have come from those sessions – it’s also utterly believable that he recorded himself talking aloud, then hired cloud-transcription services to place the lofty idealism with poetic ambitions from his headspace to the page.
It wanted to have air to mix with it’s, I dunno, I think I’m starting to hate it except I know I love it. It’s been chased away somehow. Somehow something wonderful was lurking behind all of the pausing and the techno-realities of our job. Here’s a classic case of whatever was fertile about it which I was connected with about an hour and half ago has ground down…
Again, that’s not from the book – it’s from the audio-recording of Garfunkel infuriating anyone around him in the studio. Listen to that whole audio-capture and you’ll even hear him use the word ‘Luminous’.
Garfunkel fascinates me. And so I stuck with this rambling mess of a book. Paul Simon is, by many accounts, difficult, even nasty-minded. But you have a newfound admiration for not only his songwriting after hearing from Artie. Waffle, waffle, waffle…Garfunkel does the very opposite of the key show-don’t-tell principle. Here he tells us all sorts of things about nothing in particular and shows us nothing.
Actually, that’s not true, he shows us the very fake, constructed version of his inner workings. And it’s filled with more bad poetry than you can shake a stick at. Doggerel by any other name would not bark this loud.
That stipulation should have seen the publisher bury the advance and simply cut and run.
But no. Instead we have a couple of hundred pages of unemotional, detached, deranged banter.
Lists of books he’s read, lists of achievements – the birth-dates of children, the recordings of particular Simon & Garfunkel classics.
Garfunkel, a maths whiz, and heavy reader, is too bright for his own good and yet offers nothing close to luminous nor illuminating.
The promise, in advance promotion, of an insight into the inner workings of one of the world’s most famous singing duos and their peculiar brand of acrimony, is one of many empty-handed gestures.
Garfunkel, as has been the case over the years, wants a bit more credit than he got but offers very little as actual proof for why he deserves to be thought of as anything more than an angelic harmony and lead vocalist.
The suicide of his girlfriend is afforded just two lines.
And then the poems start to dominate.
Collected up over 20+ years of journaling it’s pretty easy to get the feeling that Garfunkel started with this a vague ambition and intention and then it all just drifted away in a purple cloud of pungent smoke.
Soon he was after the world-count. What was acceptable to hand in? Another list. Another poem. More abstract thoughts. A waft. A giggle. Some silliness. Something very serious but impossible to understand. Rinse. Repeat. Rinse. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
I might, after this, not know anything much about Art but I know what I like…
I’ll stick with that beautiful, brilliant music. And the knowledge that I’ve read one of the worst memoirs of all time. Not ghost-written, that’s very clear. But written by a ghost of a man. Someone who presents his truth as the thinnest of sketches, almost as if he wasn’t there. Or couldn’t care.
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