Bob Spitz, The Beatles: The Biography
Another rant about the state of writing

Sunday, May 4, 2014
a story, not a biography      Today I tried to read Bob Spitz's The Beatles: The Biography. It is published by Little, Brown and Company, so I thought it would be a decent read. It is not. Nor is it a biography, if a biography is nonfiction. When an author strings together descriptions of minute details of actions taken, in solitude, by people who have been dead for fifty years, I know that I am reading fiction. I gave it up after eighty-odd pages, less than ten percent of this monumental, hallucinatory compendium. Shame on Little, Brown. I used to think of that outfit as a bastion of some of the higher workings of civilization; it is no longer.
     However, the publisher's disingenuousness aside, I am not against the telling of a good story, and this book might have been a good story if Little, Brown employed editors. Apparently, they would prefer to do without and to allow more dangling modifiers and mixed metaphors than could be conjured by an infinite number of monkeys. They bother themselves not even with spell-checking software; else how is "unconsolable" left in there?
     The author garbles the meanings of words, e.g., uses "necessitated" when he means "needed," and further garbles entire phrases, e.g., "...children, whose expanding world held little glamour for tradition." (I'm just happy as pie that the world didn't hold lots o' glamour for tradition! Better the world should hold the mayo for tradition!)
     I suppose the book is a good story for dimwits who will think they are learning something about the Beatles, but it is not biography or history; it is fiction. Though it is an assiduously researched work, it is fiction, badly conceived and very poorly told. More important to me, it furthers the current destruction of language (along with the critical thinking that depends on language) and does so with the imprimatur of a once great publishing house. It would be unkind of me to blame the author who, crippled by the obvious inability to use language to formulate reasonable thinking, did so much work, but that Little, Brown published it as it is reflects a bad imprint. Also, their allowance of his use of the words "The Biography" in the title is inexcusable.
     I borrowed this book just today, but I am ending this blog entry now and going to the library to drop it into the night-deposit box before I lose my temper and start writing what I really think of it.
     A parting anecdote: Before Little, Brown moved to Washington and sold their corporate soul to Satan (though I do not know which came first), I held in my hands, at their offices on Arlington Street in Boston, some pages on which Jack Kerouac had pounded letters with his manual typewriter. That was fun.

Home           |           Back to Top