Full disclosure: I'm heavily invested in the author of this memoir. I listen to Jian Ghomeshi's popular CBC radio show, Q, five mornings a week, and am impressed--no amazed--at his ability to maintain such a consistently high standard. Jian is not only a sterling interviewer--asking all the questions you want answered--but prodigiously well informed. Where does he get the time to read all that stuff? I find myself wondering. The affable talk show host not only seems to work his butt off but exhibits taste, insight, humor, generosity, and guts. His handling of the Billie Bob Thornton debacle was an admirable example of grace under fire. And the radio gig is not Gomer's first rodeo. Prior to becoming a semi-famous talk jock, he fronted a semi-famous boy band. When I heard that this multi-talented dude had published a soon-to-be-best-selling memoir I asked myself, Is there nothing this guy can't do?
Now I know the answer.
Forget the $15.00, I want my illusions back!
Though I hate to agree with the reviewer who used the words "boring and childish" those two adjectives do fit rather snugly. This memoir about the fourteenth year of the author's eventful life reads like it was written for fourteen year olds. Immature fourteen year olds. (Would you believe twelve year olds?) 1982 was the year a sensitive teenage Iranian-Canadian suffered a life-altering trauma - he lost his Adidas bag. (I'm not making this up.) Lest the reader think the loss of a fake leather security blanket on the verge of manhood is of no great moment, the author takes pains to illustrate that not all gym bags are created equal.
`Here is a short list of the colour combinations that were available in the Adidas gym bag in the early `80s:
*Spoiler alert: Jian's was `red with blue stripes and handles.'
1982 gives a whole new meaning to the term "too much information." In fact, it suffers from terminal tmi. The above list, which appears on p. 27, is not the first (there are 3 in the 8 page Prologue) and certainly not the last.
`I've made a short list (or shortlist) of the biggest hits of the Thornhill Community Band in 1982:
theme from Superman
theme from Star Wars
"How Deep is Your Love
"William Tell Overture (theme from The Lone Ranger)
"New York, New York" (them from New York, New York)'
`I've made a short list of the lawn sprinklers that were available in Thornhill in 1982:
pulsing (impulse) sprinkler
`I have made a short list (or shortlist) of things that were cool and then not cool and now cool again:
I've constructed a point form list of things I would've needed to do to become more like Sting in grade 9:
dye hair blond and straighten blond hair
stay out of sun (become whiter)
wear green army jacket
get nose job
I have made a shortlist of (unofficial) basic terms that were required in (room) 213:
black baggy theatre pants or black tight skinny jeans
prominently displayed New Wave band pin
black shoes, boots, or ballet-type slippers
black flowing scarf
Siouxsie and the Banshees tape
Black eyeliner (girls)
I have jotted down a short list of the items I packed in my Adidas bag that morning:
Sony Walkman with Police mix tape inside
Extra mix tapes featuring the Beat and Heaven 17
Sandwich bag of mixed nuts
I've made a short list of things I was scared of finding in Canada before arriving in the 1970s:
Here is a short list (or shortlist) of things my mother did not want me to be in 1982:
Here is a short list of some Clash T-shirt designs that were available for purchase in 1982:
London Calling album cover T-shirts
"Revolutionary Rock" T-shirt (white images on black)
"Straight to Hell" T-shirt (featuring freaked-out monkey icon)
white star with circle featuring "The Clash" T-shirt
The Clash debut album T-shirt (various colors)
"Clash City Rockers" T-shirt (yellow, red, and white on black)
Sandanista! T-shirt (black and red)...
I'll stop at this point to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome--and repetitive stress injury of the brain. Ghomeshi's penchant for lists, annoying as it is, is merely one stylistic tidbit in a feast of redundancy. In the first chapter we are told that David Bowie was the young author's idol, and we are reminded of this unremarkable fact in virtually every chapter after that. He was even enomored of the elusive 'Wendy' because she reminded him of David Bowie. He worship this golden idol like a born-again Rocker. What would Bowie do? is his mantra. I didn't keep track of how many times I read the word "Bowie" in the entire book, but I counted 7 on the first page.
And it's a 278-page book.
Correction, a 100-page book that's 278 pages long.
1982 covers a year in the life of the author, and the story is told in real time. After a long, drawn-out explanation of how there were no cell phones in 1982 (duhh!) and a detailed descriptions of how land lines work (duhh!) and a description of the location of the hard-wired phones in his home (yawn!) and his apprehension about his parents overhearing him phone a girl, the author continues:
'The first time I tried Wendy, things ended fast. It was in July, and I had waited for an afternoon when no one was home and I could use the upstairs phone. A woman that sounded like Wendy's mother answered. I panicked. I did the instinctive thing to do when the mother of a girl you're infatuated with picks up the phone--I hung up.'
Self Editing 101: The first time I phoned Wendy, I waited for an afternoon when no one was home. A woman who sounded like Wendy's mother answered. I hung up.
This excerpt was chosen at random. I could have plucked an equally prolix example from virtually any page. Whoever edited this travesty (if anyone did edit it) should be sued for malpractice. Or maybe shot. Who's kidding whom? If a non-celebrity had submitted this manuscript to a mainstream publisher he or she would have had two chances of it being accepted--and slim left town. In fact, if it had been submitted to a non-Canadian mainstream publisher it would have come back with a form rejection letter. Over the past few months there's been considerable bitching, in reviews and discussion groups, about the mediocrity of self-published books. Well, I've read at least one "indie" author who, compared to Jian Ghomeshi, is Marcel Proust. And it doesn't cost the $17 they're charging for the Kindle version of this dud but .99. (See the product link at the end of the review.)
Don't get me wrong; I'm still a great admirer of Jian Ghomeshi. I just don't think Penguin Canada did him any favors by helping him (and them) exploit his celebrity for a quick buck. This book isn't bad; it's embarrassing. It is unworthy of the "real" Jian Ghomeshi, of whom we get a brief glimpse in one of the ubiquitous short lists (or shortlists) with which this memoir is strewn --an "inside baseball" take on a Queen rock standard:
'I have made a short list (or shortlist) of the six best moments of "Under Pressure" and the times at which they appear in the song:
1. 0.01--The top of the song features the iconic two-note bass line that may have been written by Bowie or by Queen bassist John Deacon. There is disagreement on who wrote it, but it's unforgettable, and it would later form the basis of a sample by rapper Vanilla Ice that would lead to another, less interesting and slightly ridiculous hit called "Ice Ice Baby."
2. 0.57--This moment in the song is the first time Bowie sings his dramatic line about the terror of being aware of what the world is about in the pre-chorus. Few lyrics have been sung with such authority and power. This is Bowie playing Bowie.
3. 1.22--The beginning of the backup oohs that Bowie sings behind Freddie in the second verse. I imagine that Bowie winked at Freddy when he sang this part.
4. 1.30--Freddie's improvised musical "bee bap" nonsense words heading into the second chorus. Freddie is singing with abandon. It's so clear that this could not have been planned. It is one of the few moments in any modern rock song that features scatting.
5. 2.22--Freddies melodramatic climbing note on the word "why" with Bowie echoing "love" in the background. More drama will not be found in most epic films.
6. 2.50-3.32 The final crescendo with Freddie singing "give love" and Bowie pleading into the microphone about this being the last dance. Gold.
Being unfamiliar with the song in question I must admit that the above is Farci to me, but it does reflect someone who takes pride in his craft. Which, unfortunately, is not writing books.
Jian, baby, I love and respect you--but don't quit your morning job.Einstein's Shutter
(Kindle version available on Amazon.com.)