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Neil Young Nation [Paperback]

Kevin Chong

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Book Description

Sept. 1 2005

Neil Young is one of the most consistently popular musicians of our time. His brilliant, gnomic, lyrical music has earned him fans of all ages and persuasions. Novelist Kevin Chong counts himself among them.

Neil Young will turn 60 in 2005. Kevin Chong will turn 30. To celebrate these two milestones, Chong sets off on a road trip in search of his boyhood hero. Crisscrossing the continent, he follows that route that led Young to become a musical legend. He visits Winnipeg, where Young formed his first band, the Squires; Omeemee,Young's childhood home; Los Angeles, where Young became a rock star; and many more of Young's former haunts. He meets rabid Neil fans, talks to people who knew Young as a kid, and puzzles over Young's strange, sometimes contradictory pronouncements.

Neil Young Nation is an entertaining account of Chong's journey. But it is much more than a conventional travelogue. It's an idiosyncratic, irreverent, free-wheeling pastiche that incorporates elements of biography, mock hagiography, cultural criticism, humor, and personal essay. Chong's brief vacation from adulthood teaches him something about rock and roll, contrarianism, the allure of the road, being cool, and aging gracefully: staying Young.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Greystone Books; 1 edition (Sept. 1 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1553651162
  • ISBN-13: 978-1553651161
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 17.7 x 23.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 522 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #473,954 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Amazon

While some may be forgiven for assuming that Neil Young Nation is yet another in a crowd of Neil Young biographies, this is neither among those officially sanctioned (Shakey, Don't Be Denied) nor an unauthorized facts-be-damned waste of paper. Never having met with or spoken to the man whose name forms the title (and not wanting to, for fear his role model might be a jerk on such an occasion), Kevin Chong has written a Neil Young book that is less a biography than a memoir: upon turning 29, after spending three years creating a manuscript (for a different book) that no publisher wanted, Chong decided to stop writing fiction, and looked to Neil Young--a man who has succeeded on his own terms--for inspiration on what to do next.

Chong hatched a plan to take a road trip with three friends (Geoff, Dave, and Mark), retracing the journey Young made in early 1966, when he left Canada behind to meet up with Stephen Stills in Los Angeles, where they found immediate fame with their new band Buffalo Springfield. Along the way, Chong interviewed people who had known Young at the early stages of his musical career: former band members, classmates, girlfriends, and others. While well-referenced, what makes the book most rewarding is the dry, self-deprecating humour shared by the author and his traveling companions: "It often seemed to me that Dave and Mark lived in a parallel universe where pretty female strangers, when asked for directions, offered their services as tour guides. On certain levels, I hate them." Equally refreshing is Chong's unwillingness to gloss over some of his hero's questionable attitudes and behaviour regarding relationships and politics, pointing out many contradictions throughout his career but never letting them interfere with his respect for the music and the man. --Eric Wilson

From Publishers Weekly

The deep personal commitment that millions of rock fans make to their idols is sharply illustrated by Chong's belief that "Neil Young saved my life." The author, a recent Columbia M.F.A. graduate and novelist, shares the story of a journey he and three friends took through Winnipeg, Fort William (now Thunder Bay, Ontario), Toronto and Los Angeles—all areas where Young lived and worked from his 1950s childhood to his present-day fame. Chong talks with a writer who treasures the memory of being winked at by Young and a landlady who remembers that Young left a cigarette burn on her couch. The musician emerges an enigma, a leftist political artist who antagonized left-wingers by praising Reagan, while denouncing Nixon as "hippiedom's dark overlord." Tough about firing people when he had to, yet sensitive and willing to lay himself bare, Young comes across as recognizably human, despite the author's reverential tone. Chong has a flair for colorful descriptions and bringing character eccentricities alive, and he chooses appropriate Young lyrics to quote throughout the narrative. Penetrating as Chong's chronicle is, however, it sometimes meanders and would've benefited from a deeper look at the author's feelings. Photos. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a long, strange (but great) trip Feb. 5 2006
By OHJoel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Maybe it's because I'm almost 30 years old myself and, like the author, at the crossroads between my freewheeling 20's and the more domestic 30's. Maybe it's because I've thought about making trips to Ontario to see my musical hero's hometown just for fun, and never done it. Whatever it is, this book connected with me. Thankfully, the book is a lot less about Neil Young than it is about a road trip with friends and the experiences they've had along the way. I say thankfully because I've read enough biographical books on Neil, including the extensive, 700-page or whatever "Shakey," by Jimmie McDonough, which is great, by the way. While Chong does get into some history of Young's musical life during the road trip from Canada to LA, I actually found myself enjoying the parts most where it was just Chong and his buddies, Geoff, Dave and Mark, talking about random stuff in the car or while having some beers with locals at various taverns along the way. A modern, sarcastic road trip tale not too much unlike that of Jack Kerouac's "On the Road," without the rambling, random lunacy of the Dean character. The book should connect especially with those in the 25-35 range, even if they're not huge Neil Young fans. A must-read for any big Neil fan, however. There's even numerous mentions of meetings with "Rusties" around the country.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars On the road with Neil Young May 10 2006
By Greg Reilly - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The book's subtitle, A Quest, An Obsession (and a True Story) sums up author Kevin Chong's yearning to discover what it really means to be a dedicated Neil Young fan and his desire to stay youthful and passionate.
"Most of my friends were grown-ups. I didn't count myself among them," Chong writes in his introduction. And later, he confesses his "inability to grow up". Citing what Young calls "reckless abandon" to describe the way he makes his music, Chong states that's what he wants "in my life, in my art".
So, straight up you know this is self-indulgent navel gazing. But don't be put off. There's much more to Neil Young Nation.
Turning 30 the same year Neil Young turns 60, Chong decides to commemorate the two milestones with a road trip with three space-cake munching mates, tracing old Shakey's footsteps from Canada to California.
The pilgrimage by the four adventurers follows the zig-zag trail that Young took in a converted black hearse: Winnipeg, where the country rocker formed his first band, the Squires; Omeemee, Young's childhood home, the "town in north Ontario" he sings about in his sweet song, Helpless; and Los Angeles, where Young found rock 'n' roll fame.
In his peregrinations Chong visits many of his idol's former haunts. He meets other Young obsessives, people who knew Young years ago, including a vice-principle at his old high-school, a former manager of a caf? where Young made his solo debut, and a woman who made the 1966 hearse trek with Young.
The author avoids sloppy sentimentality or embarrassing hero worship. His obsession is kind of scholarly, sifting flotsam and jetsam along the journey for clues, like an archaeological sweep.
Chong uses the subject of his ideal escapism as the reference point, and by journey's end what he has gleaned about Young has also taught him a few things, too, especially about cool and aging gracefully. But, most importantly, to choose passion over precision.
Chong, of course, makes liberal use of Young's lyrics through his book, selecting the most appropriate places. There is a discography at the back as well as references and source notes.
Neil Young Nation, thankfully, is not just another biography to add to the half-dozen or so already published, not to mention the scores of web sites dedicated to Young.
This is a road book: part biography; part personal essay; part adventure tale. And it adds up to a rollicking, sometimes funny, good-time read. It goes without saying, a must-read for Rusties (obsessive Young fans). Three-and-a-half stars.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars college reminiscing Jan. 12 2006
By biotech nurse poet - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
As I approach my 25th year college reunion, this book brought me back to those college days where we thought it was so cool to go to Cy Young's house to speak with the people who live there now. We made precious films about "gazing globes" (those strange balls that sit atop cement stands in gardens all over the midwest). I guess more than anything, this book describes the path you can take if you wish to become a true member of the hidden, authentic Neil Young fan society. Most of the truly informative bits I was able to glean from 4 Way Street: The Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Reader by David Zimmer. But it was a good transport back to those college days when you wanted desperately to be on the "in" of a hip, secret society.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From a Rustie Wanna-Be Feb. 18 2009
By Shadow - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Chong's book is well-written and really speaks to the sort of Young fan I am myself...a long-time fan who loves many periods, but isn't of the obsessive must-have-every-bootleg variety. I enjoyed riding with Chong on his adventure and learning a little bit more about my favorite artist in the process. I even filled in some gaps in my collection after reading this book. Hey, I got Re-ac-tor and Trans when they first came out. How could I never have heard Zuma before? Thank you, Kevin!!
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A survey of his findings about Neil Young, rock music, and encounters Neil had with fans and fellow musicians along the way. Jan. 6 2007
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Neil Young is one of the most popular musicians of modern times and has enjoyed decades of fame in the rock world, producing consistently outstanding lyrics and sounds. NEIL YOUNG NATION is more than just a review of his life, however: author Kevin Chong set off on a road trip to research his subject, following the places which influenced Young's music: NEIL YOUNG NATION is at once an account of Chong's personal journey as well as a survey of his findings about Neil Young, rock music, and encounters Neil had with fans and fellow musicians along the way.

Diane C. Donovan

California Bookwatch

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