Brian Wilson with Ben Greenman
I Am Brian Wilson: A Memoir
Published by Da Capo
Oct 25, 2016 Web Exclusive
Brian Wilson's memoir is an unconventional but fascinating read. Through it, Wilson details his time with The Beach Boys, his disturbing history with his father, and his time with live-in therapist, Dr. Eugene Landy, who mistreated him in the '70s and '80s. But most of all, I Am Brian Wilson chronicles his undying love of music.
The book is a circuitous read. Wilson hops among decades and albums in near stream-of-consciousness fashion for most of the first half of the book, and it's not always easy to keep track. In contrast, however, his discussions of Pet Sounds and the initial SMiLE sessions are remarkably linear and complete. Wilson spends a great deal of the latter part of the book discussing his solo efforts and latter day musical endeavors.
Two threads run through I Am Brian Wilson. One is, most obviously, music. Despite, and perhaps even because of, his sometimes loosely connected writing style, one gets a terrific feel for Brian Wilson as a person and how he both thinks about and is affected by music. This is one true joy of the book. The second thread to run through the text is that of mental illness. Wilson draws a clear line between the early period Beach Boys and the fateful day that he suffered a nervous breakdown on a plane en route to a concert in Houston in late 1964. This event is referenced throughout the text as both a harbinger of later things and an explanation for past events.
Wilson discusses his time with Dr. Landy and tenuous Beach Boy relations, such as that with his cousin Mike Love, with almost detached objectivity. He clearly bears ill will toward Landy, but he fails to slag Love as much as one might expect given the lawsuits and betrayals he seems to have suffered over the years.
In all, I Am Brian Wilson is as interesting a book as you'd want it to be. It's not a linear history. It's not a juicy tell-all. But it is a beautiful view into the brilliant and sometimes troubled mind of a true genius of American music.
Author rating: 7.5/10
Average reader rating: 7/10
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