Staff Pick – The John Lennon Letters by John Lennon and Hunter Davies

Hunter Davies, (M) a long time friend of John Lennon, (M) has compiled a beautiful, glossy collection of John Lennon’s letters and notes ranging from boyhood to the day of his death. As well as being transcribed, the letters are presented in their original form complete with sketches and doodles. Davies provides background and context for the letters and explains Lennon’s wordplay and witticism which probably would only be obvious to the letter’s recipient. This is treat for John Lennon’s fans or anyone interested in Beatles lore.

The John Lennon Letters (M) paints a picture of a restless and ambitious young man who was witty, creative and approached life thoughtfully and with intensity. We also see a John Lennon who was angry, frustrated and sarcastic. The letters themselves range from the banal (groceries lists with admonitions to buy grapenuts – not flakes) to his more profound and immediate feelings about the Beatles, leaving his first wife for Yoko Ono and transcendental meditation. You see evidence throughout of his generosity, especially at the beginning of his career. He took the time to write thoughtful notes to fans and even gave out his own and the other Beatles’ addresses. Later, some of those notes would be used to fund a child’s education. That’s pretty amazing.
Critical reception has been mixed. One reviewer in The Telegraph feels strongly that Davies has scraped the bottom of the John Lennon memorabilia barrel and used words like “nonsense” and “beyond parody”. Not surprisingly the comments section was polarized with genius vs hack, hero vs villain opinions. Lennon fans will appreciate the intimate nature of the letters and the glimpses into the man’s private life. Maybe there’s a frustrated archivist buried deep somewhere within me because I found this to be fascinating – even the rant about the laundry. I do wonder, as a biography reader, whether this will the last generation to leave behind print evidence of what daily life is like.
Staff Pick - The John Lennon Letters by John Lennon and Hunter Davies Chronicles: volume one (M) by Bob Dylan “By turns revealing, poetical, passionate and witty, Chronicles: Volume One is a mesmerizing window on Bob Dylan’s thoughts and influences. Dylan’s voice is distinctively American: generous of spirit, engaged, fanciful and rhythmic. Utilizing his unparalleled gifts of storytelling and the exquisite expressiveness that are the hallmarks of his music, Bob Dylan turns Chronicles: Volume One into a poignant reflection on life, and the people and places that helped shape the man and the art.” publisher

Staff Pick - The John Lennon Letters by John Lennon and Hunter Davies Lennon: the man, the myth, the music – the definitive life (M) by Tim Riley. Riley portrays Lennon’s rise from Hamburg’s red light district to Britain’s Royal Variety Show; from the charmed naivete of “Love Me Do” to the soaring ambivalence of “Don’t Let Me Down”; from his shotgun marriage to Cynthia Powell in 1962 to his epic media romance with Yoko Ono. Written with the critical insight and stylistic mastery readers have come to expect from Riley, this richly textured narrative draws on numerous new and exclusive interviews with Lennon’s friends, enemies, confidantes, and associates; lost memoirs written by relatives and friends; as well as previously undiscovered City of Liverpool records. Riley explores Lennon in all of his contradictions: the British art student who universalized an American style, the anarchic rock ’n’ roller with the moral spine, the anti-jazz snob who posed naked with his avant-garde lover, and the misogynist who became a househusband. What emerges is the enormous, seductive, and confounding personality that made Lennon a cultural touchstone.” publisher


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