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Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon Kindle Edition
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From Library Journal
---Lloyd Jansen, Stockton-San Joaquin Cty. P.L., CA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From the Publisher
Unlike other Lennon biographies, Nowhere Man is even-handed and sane. It is piercing and myth-shattering, but it is, more important, balanced with respect, perspective and love. Lennon was a revolutionary: his visions for a future without repression and war were put into practice with activities that warranted FBI surveillance and establishment suspicion. He associated with the cultural and political revolutionaries of his time and the information about the depth of his political commitment is only now coming to light (his support for the IRA, and his links to the New Left of his era, his impassioned and political song-writing, etc.)
However, Nowhere Man also displays with candor the price fame extracts from Lennon's character. The pressure to be both meaningful and luminary at times caused Lennon to indulge in pseudo-science and mysticism. Instead of wise, the Lennon of Nowhere Man sometimes comes off as comically absurd.
Nowhere Man is not "based on" the diaries of John Lennon, or any other material owned by the Estate of John Lennon. That said, Rosen did, at one point, have multiple volumes of the now unavailable Lennon diaries, and did study them in depth. But the material in Nowhere Man is based primarily on the products of the author's creative energies, including interviews and original research.
Soft Skull Press was recently profiled in the New York Times, and was called one of the "Punks of Publishing" by the Village Voice. We are New York's leading cutting-edge, downtown house, and received wild amounts of exposure on 60 Minutes for our decision to re-publish Fortunate Son: George W. Bush and the Making of an American President. Nowhere Man is comparable to that book because it strips away the myth, and gives you the truth.Sander Hicks, Publisher, Soft Skull Press, Inc.
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Rosen temporarily had access to Lennon's diaries (which were later taken back) and the book quickly evolves into less a book about Lennon or a Beatle than someone enslaved by fame and fortune: the once rebellious Lennon had become highly materialistic, a boss who almost gleefully hired and fired servants frequently and a person emotionally chained and drained by Yoko. Indeed, the book confirms fans' suspicions that had he not been with Yoko he might have created MORE during his lifetime. With all his wealth, real estate and servants he led a somewhat depressing, hum-drum life, holed up in his apartment, creatively bankrupt until when, towards the end, he recorded Double Fantasy.
The irony is that just as he began to lift himself out of his creative and personal slumps, Mark David Chapman started going quickly downhill. This book brilliantly details Chapman's transformation into Lennon's assasin. And it's done with no corn or cliche -- just brilliant reporting that makes you feel the loss even more when it's over.
On a personal note, I was working on a newspaper in Kansas (I am now a fulltime ventriloquist) doing night shift the night Lennon was murdered. When the editor on duty said "They shot John Lennon" my reaction was "Was he hurt?" You'll feel the loss AGAIN when you read this -- but this time a SPECIAL LOSS since it was clear he was finally getting his life, priorities, work and relationships on track when he was struck down. EXCELLENT BOOK ON THE PITFALLS OF FAME EVEN IF YOU DON'T LIKE THE BEATLES.
He retraces Lennon's steps through Liverpool, London, New York and Bermuda and tries to paint a picture of daily life in the Dakota building overlooking Central Park. It is interesting to know that John read the 3 New York Dailies but also loved the supermarket tabloids like the National Enquirer, Midnight Globe and the National Star. The book is quite detailed on the recording process of the Double Fantasy album.
The last chapters narrate the murder of Lennon by Mark Chapman and the trial, at which Chapman quoted from Salinger's The Catcher In The Rye.
It is an interesting book but it must be noted that lots of it is based on the author's imagination and shouldn't be taken as fact. A gripping read, nevertheless, and the text is made accessible to students of Lennon's life by a thorough index.
This book explores his on-again, off-again relationship with his first child, Julian, born 4/8/63. Apparently wanting more of a paternal relationship with his oldest son, John tries to make up for this by being a full time father to his second son, Sean (b. 10/9/75). His love and seemingly dependent relationship with Yoko is also discussed; in reading this work as with many others on John Lennon one gets the feeling that he is rather dependent upon her.
Towards the end of his life John learns to sail; this single accomplishment appears to symbolize a step towards independence. He takes to this new ability immediately and wants to share all he has learned with Sean.
Inclusion appears to be the theme of this latter period in his life; he includes Yoko on many of his songs; some of Yoko's works appear on his albums. On the 1980 "Double Fantasy" collection, John does many self-revealing songs, such as his poignant "Beautiful Boy," a song he wrote for Sean and "Clean Up Time," a song about the roles he and Yoko have in running their business. Yoko's "Beautiful Boys," which was written for John and Sean is a very peaceful song. It really is a good song and it is interesting that the title is very similar to the one John did for Sean.
This book describes and reveals a very complex man, a very brilliant man, a very tortured man and at core a very private man. Who knows today what John Lennon would have created had he not died in 1980? The death of John Lennon on 12/8/80 remains one of the worst days in my life and a day that will be etched in infamy for time immemorial.
Imagine John Lennon today. Imagine John, Sean and Yoko now. The world will always wonder and Imagine.
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So Rosen finally wrote his book, but he launched it with this disclaimer: "Nowhere Man is a work of both investigative journalism and imagination. I have used my memory of Lennon's diaries, as well as notes written in 1982 when I originally re-created them, as a roadmap to the truth. But I have used no material from the diaries." This has led many to believe that this biography is, at best, a work of historical fiction. But I don't buy that; it had too much a ring of truth to it to make me believe that Rosen hadn't retained copies of what he was privy to. His short chapters contain a wealth of telling detail, but I understand that it would be legal suicide for him to admit primary sources were used.
That said, this book is a fabulous quick read. Some "chapters" are only a couple of paragraphs long. It is clear that during John's final years his fame and fortune set him apart from others in a number of unhappy ways. Although living in New York gave him some chance to blend in, he became reclusive in the Dakota fretting about his physical appearance, eating and spending habits, distant relationship with son Julian, Paul McCartney's success, fear that others wanted to take advantage of him, etc. And as if his own private demons weren't enough to battle, John had Yoko running his every move through channels of numerology and astrology for guidance. She was also unfaithful to him, playing the two Sams they employed ("her queer decorators") against each to make him jealous. This led John to write the song "I'm Losing You." Another reviewer correctly noted that he was emotionally "chained and drained" by her.
Sadly enough, it seems that he was starting to pull his life in a more positive direction just before he was killed. On a trip to Bermuda, he hammered out songs for his comeback album Double Fantasy which launched to critical acclaim. He threw himself back into the media spotlight for interviews and photo sessions, which he seemed to be enjoying. And, of course, he loved being a daddy to younger son Sean. Rosen does a capable job of setting down the parallel tracks of John's revitalization and Mark David Chapman's descent into mental illness that finally converged on the night of the murder. Their juxtaposition makes for a very poignant ending, one that begs the question, "What more might John have done with his life if he had been allowed to live?" Such a senseless tragedy . . .
God bless him.