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Friday, October 19, 2012

Heavy Review of "Waging Heavy Peace" Book by Neil Young

"Waging Heavy Peace" Book by Neil Young
#2 on The New York Times Best Sellers
(Details on CONTEST: Win Copy of "Waging Heavy Peace")

With so much Neil Young and Crazy Horse concert tour info happening, we haven't had much time to devote to the reviews of Neil's new book "Waging Heavy Peace".

First, a little news from Neil Young 'Waging Heavy Peace' en route to Hollywood Bowl - by Randy Lewis:
“Generally speaking, it’s really encouraging,” Young said over the phone of the response to his book so far. “Some of my friends have written personal notes saying that they’ve enjoyed it, and that makes me feel good. That’s the thing that means the most to me, when I hear back from the people I think of as the target audience for the book.”

“Waging Heavy Peace” has been generating positive reviews from literary critics who have praised its non-chronological structure, akin in some ways to Bob Dylan’s impressionistic 2004 memoir “Chronicles: Volume One.” Young’s book is selling strongly, with more than 300,000 copies in print, and it ranks in the Top 5 nonfiction bestsellers nationally by the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and several other publications.


“For guys like Bob and me,” Young said nonchalantly (as if there is a large contingent of people on the same musical plane as Dylan and Young), “this is probably the only way to do it and keep it interesting.... I never really wanted to write it in the regular way from beginning to end. That’s not the way my brain works. That would make it into a job, and I’m not looking for another job.”


Young is continuing to write prose and is working on another nonfiction book in addition to pondering a third in which he might delve into fiction. “I think it’d be fun to create some characters and see what happens with them,” he said.
So the book is a best seller and is being hailed by many fans as a wonderful read. We include ourselves in that category.

Most reviews thus far contain descriptions like "compelling, non-linear, stream of consciousness, repetitive, very cars/trains/audio equipment focused, not a tell all, rambling, goofy, sentimental, moving", etc.

All of which is true. But for us -- and most readers it seems -- reading the book "Waging Heavy Peace" makes you feel like Neil is having a conversation with you. Digressing, jumping to the past, to the future, right back to the here and now present.

And as strange -- or simple -- as that might sound, it comes across as highly original in this day and age of ghost writers and high drama. The book contains quite a few eye openers and honest moments undisclosed before yet never ventures into what the industry loves to call "juicy tidbits" (translation - celebrity gossip).

And good for Neil not to sell his soul to sell some books.

All of which brings us to this rather peculiar review from Neil Young's Memoir, "Waging Heavy Peace": Writing Without Reading : The New Yorker by Alec Wilkinson. First, if you're not familiar with The New Yorker, it is a rather renowned publication for the literati in the arts and publishing world.

That said, it seems that Alec Wilkinson's review emanates from an interview he conducted with Neil Young some time ago (Wilkinson does not specify when or where published?). The The New Yorker review begins with the following: "[Neil Young] is the only artist I have ever encountered who is proud of not reading."

Now we did find that somewhat startling but maybe not surprising. It turns out that Wilkinson asked Neil what books he read and he said he didn't read books, "Reading would distract him from writing songs, he once told me, meaning interfere with whatever mechanism supplied him with his melodies and lyrics."

Wilkinson goes on to explain that the weakness of both "Waging Heavy Peace" and Young's songs is because of his lack of exposure to great literature.

On the ride Young told me that he didn’t read, but I might have guessed anyway.

He was a reserved and slightly grave figure, and talking with him was like being trapped with someone whose mind had no reach. He could only talk about what he felt or had seen or thought. I couldn’t respond to one of his remarks by raising an idea it had made me think of and have him make some connection to some other thought and then respond to that. A part of him seemed to have been arrested at a very early age. I am, of course, accustomed to meeting people I don’t feel able to talk to, or who aren’t interested in talking to me.

I hadn’t expected, though, to find that someone whose work had ranged so widely had no curiosity about such an obvious possibility for enlarging the imagination, or to have been so indifferent to it. He seemed like someone who had worked at the same factory for years and years without ever wondering what lay to the left or right of the gates. Finally, I asked who he liked to read, and he said he didn’t read, and I thought, Bingo.
Of course, we can only imagine where Neil's career would be today if only he had read "Tolstoy or Dickens or Chekhov or Kierkegaard" like Mr. Wilkinson. Or the "poems of writers such as Philip Levine or William Butler Yeats or the prose of a writer such as Isak Dinesen."

If only. Maybe "Pocahontas" would sound like this...

Aurora borealis
The astronomical phenomenon of electric charged particles
Canoe paddles stroke deeply in the water
In a long and expedient exit
From the European settlers to the bountiful agriculture yields
And the country we've yet to witness.

Yet. Yet, Wilkinson concludes the review with the ultimate complement:
Thelonius Monk said, The man is a genius who is most himself, and Young has exemplified the remark. His thinking is restricted and sheltered, however, and his writing is aimless.
say what?

Read The New Yorker review yourself and let us know what you thought.

And can anyone point out where Neil says or indicates that he is "proud of not reading."? We think Wilkinson has made a huge leap and mis-characterized an impression.

Apparently, we were not the only one who found The New Yorker review by Alec Wilkinson to be off target.

From Why Neil Young Doesn't Need To Be Well-Read by Matthew Perpetua:
A review of Neil Young's new memoir Waging Heavy Piece by Alec Wilkinson in The New Yorker argues that the veteran rocker's vast body of work would be improved if he had been exposed to "examples of language carrying complicated thoughts or feelings, the way they are carried in the poems of writers such as Philip Levine or William Butler Yeats or the prose of a writer such as Isak Dinesen." It's a gallingly condescending take on Young, who Wilkinson presents as some sort of simple-minded artistic savant. He describes his words as "insipid and sentimental," and notes that Bob Dylan's music and memoirs are far more cerebral and writerly, as if that was the most important criteria to judge a musician and their work.

Much of Wilkinson's review is really a love letter to books, and he says that a lot of the appeal of reading for him comes down to it enabling the reader to "enter intimately into minds remote in time or place from my own." He argues that music does not "easily embody complex ideas," and that's true in the sense that it's a terrible way to convey pure information or didactic arguments. There are absolutely ideas and arguments that are, as he says, better suited to fiction and prose, but music is amazing because it's so effective in communicating thoughts and emotions, particularly knotty, ambiguous feelings that are very difficult to put into words. But really, it's sort of ridiculous to pit these very different modes of expression against each other – all art forms have their strengths and weaknesses, and you can easily fault novels and poetry for their relative lack of immediacy and concision.

Wilkinson can only consider Young in light of his biases about literature and hangups about what an intelligent artist should be like. He says he reads to gain access to thoughts and experiences that are not his own, yet recoils when he does not see a reflection of himself in Young. He recognizes the value of Young's music, but dismisses it as "artless." It's aggravating, because it's all just an ill-considered bias in favor of the written word, and stubborn refusal to acknowledge that it takes just as much (if not more!) intelligence to convey - and decode - complex thoughts expressed through art forms that rely so much on intuition.
Lastly, don't forget CONTEST: Win "Waging Heavy Peace" Book by Neil Young.

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At 10/19/2012 08:51:00 AM, Anonymous cosplusisin said...

Interesting comments from that interviewer. I think he's right about some things, that Neil really isn't interested in other stuff, and that he's happy doing what he does, and being where he is, and hasn't necessarily considered doing anything different (or differently), but where the writer goes wrong is suggesting that Neil should change that aspect of his personality, or that his art would be better if he did. Everyone's different, and that interviewer happens to be a different sort of person than Neil. The writer's mistake is thinking that other people should be more like him.

(p.s. if you want to get all Meyers Briggs, if you know about that stuff, I think he's saying Neil has S and J where the interviewer has N and P.. maybe?)

At 10/19/2012 08:57:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

well, he's right about the book. i know rusties are eating it up, but i just can't seem to read the thing for more than 5 minutes at a time. sure, there are some juicy tidbits in there, but the writing "style" is just so bad that it's hard for me to read. sorry neil, but i'd much rather take "shakey" off the shelf.

At 10/19/2012 09:36:00 AM, Anonymous Soldier Steve said...

I bought the audio version of the book,11 CD.I can't read much more then 10 minutes myself, its a great listen driving around.Lots of interesting things Neil had to say.

At 10/19/2012 09:42:00 AM, Blogger Dad said...


At 10/19/2012 09:51:00 AM, Blogger Tweck9 said...

I honestly very much enjoy Neil's writing style. I love the nonlinear, tangential way he expresses his thoughts. I love how sometimes it diverges and never comes back, while at other times it eventually circles back to whatever spawned the original tangent.

Of course people who think of themselves as fans of the rules of literature are going to find fault with it, and while this reviewer might make some good points about Neil, he misses one big point altogether:

Not everything should be measured in academic terms, or in this case the established literary forms or vocabulary, or expectations derived from assumptions about what someone who is "educated" might create as opposed to someone who is more organically self-educated, such as Neil.

It's like someone saying that Neil would be a better guitar player if he took lessons from Joe Satriani and learned all the rules, and played with a pick, and became a technical guitar genius. Sure, he'd shred with graceful, technical precision, but would that make his guitar playing better?

Some would argue that because Neil is a self-taught guitarist who plays by feel, and an intense emotional sensibility, his own personality informs the music in a completely non-corrupted way, and is better because of it.

Again, I won't diss people like Salman Rushdie, or Kurt Vonnegut, who are/were highly trained and exceptional, creative writers, or people like Eddie Van Halen and Yngwie Malmsteen, who are highly technically educated, and quite masterful guitarists.

And while the "academics" among us serve an incredibly important role in the creation of art, so do those who come from the other side of the tracks. The self-starters who have no formal education, yet still create brilliant, if often extremely unconventional works, which may even contain elements or tricks that people who are primarily interested in technical ability might call rudimentary.

But one thing I've noticed is that, those who are interested in the nuances of technical proficiency often miss the importance of the nuances of emotional, purely creative, or even unabashedly human expression in their eagerness to assess a work on the merits of the artist's use of erudite constructs and devices.

Now, I'm a big fan of words and linguistic devices, and fun uses of language, which is why I mention two of my favorite authors above, who are very educated, talented people.

But I absolutely admire those who hew their own path; primarily because that path doesn't resemble the oft-traveled, well-cleaved and carefully tended paths provided for us by academia. Instead, they are often rough, divergent, prone to strange, sometimes logic-defying twists, and peppered with patches of weeds and briars.

There is genius to be found on both sides, obviously, but the less-trod, self-created path is often overgrown with inventiveness and emotional sensibility that is hard to find down the other one.

And Neil's journey, as he's said many a time in the past, does not take place on the nicely paved road of accepted form and function, but in the weed-filled ditch of pure, unhindered self-expression of a more human and emotive nature.

It is genius, and it is not stunted by Neil's lack of higher education as the reviewer suggests, but is freed from such constraints, and allowed to grow into wild, naturalistic patches of creative beauty.

At 10/19/2012 10:25:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

That was pretty well written Matthew. I thought that the New Yorker piece was interesting.... a different slant on the usual Neil Young portrait drawn by journalists (and a lot more psychologically acute than the long profile in the Times a few weeks ago.)
There is something deeply self absorbed about much of his best work (I'm especially thinking about side two of On the Beach) but there's nothing wrong with that - he goes so deep that the resulting revelations become accessible on a primal level.
When he tries to be topical he sometimes ends up with a "Let it Roll", maybe the worst song he's ever written, and sometimes a "Thrasher" which is maybe the best.
Ultimately, we continue to develop the picture, which is amazing, that in his late sixties he continues to reveal new aspects of a personality that are endlessly fascinating.
As for Heavy Peace- it is about what I expected. It makes, for me, a great bathroom book, and a flip and browse experience, rather than something I read straight through. I'm glad he wrote it, but I'll continue to re-read Shakey every other year or so before I'll spend a lot of time with Heavy Peace.
The music speaks for itself. I am dying for the day I can sit down and listen to the new album from beginning to end.

At 10/19/2012 10:33:00 AM, Blogger Tweck9 said...

I'd also like to take issue with the reviewer describing Neil's writing as "aimless".

First off, it's not aimless. It wanders, sometimes in circles, or down side-trails and tangents that seem to just keep branching off almost haphazardly, but it is not aimless.

Each thought leads to another thought, and the whole is far more than merely the sum of a bunch of distracted musings that don't go anywhere!

His tangents are inextricably tied together by very clear relationships. He doesn't just jump from one thought to the next with no apparent purpose. Each interlinked musing grows out of the previous one by merit of a guiding rapport that binds them - each is relevant to the previous, and often a certain point carries through his many divergences.

At other times, he is playfully distracted, but that works very well too, if you're willing to read the book as the internal conversation that it is. It is purely a reflection of the human mind's veering complexity, and not a focused, literary accounting of anything.

But I do not find it aimless at all. There is an aim to the entire work, and that is to express Neil's feelings about his life and career in the tangled, free-form spirit of pure, unbounded human thought.

The style suggests aimlessness to a reviewer who is concerned with literary academics, but it is anything but when taken as a whole.

At 10/19/2012 10:52:00 AM, Anonymous said...

I think Neil Young is a lyrical and musical genius. I mean Journey really had me. I did not want it to end. His song " you never call" gave me chills. Made me cry and smile. He just gets better as he rolls along in life. I cant wait to get his book. I love him also because he never sold his soul. And fame and fortune seemed to not change him. Unlike so many. Ending up having no heart but only into themselves as a famous person who forgets where they came from. I dont think it bothers Neil Young that he does not read. Does not seem to efect him. His on top of whats happening. I cant wait to get his book but am entering to try to win it. I think it was a good write up of Neil Young. I dont think anything anyone could say would ever deminish my respect admoration and love for him. Thank you. Susan Miller

At 10/19/2012 11:27:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My favourite new tidbit in the book is the fact the song 'Changing Highways' was actually written in 1974 and recorded at the very first recording session with the 'new' Crazy Horse at Chess Records.

Wish there were a few more tidbits like that. But what a great book.


At 10/19/2012 11:36:00 AM, Blogger joelookout said...

Got the book in US to read it while flying back to Rome, Italy. I literally devoured it in 4/5 days..
I like his way of writing: J.Joyce would call it 'Stream of consciousness'. In the end it is julst like he writes, sings, and plays his songs. 'Loved' the paragraph about the poisoned sticks for rosting the marsh mellows.... hope he will tour to Europe with CH-

At 10/19/2012 12:45:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Strange to read what amounts to charges of near-illiteracy targeted at Neil. He wrote a competent song about (and named a school after) one of the most obscure, difficult, under-appreciated and brilliant pieces in all of modern literature: Hart Crane's the Bridge.

At 10/19/2012 12:47:00 PM, Blogger Tweck9 said...

no one -

Thanks for the compliment. I pretty much agree with your assessment of Neil as well, specifically this statement:

"Ultimately, we continue to develop the picture, which is amazing, that in his late sixties he continues to reveal new aspects of a personality that are endlessly fascinating."

How true, and remarkable, that is. I also concur that most of his best work has a self-absorbed quality, in that he writes often from an internalized view of existence, lyrically, both in his more direct and simple later work and his more nebulous earlier lyrical tendencies.

And right on with side two of On the Beach - I think the whole album is one of his greatest artistic achievements, but particularly as it moves, it becomes deeply internal, and yes, primal.

Also, that he can be hit and miss when it comes to being topical, though when he hits, it's phenomenal (i.e. Thrasher, Pocahontas, Peaceful Valley Boulevard).

At 10/19/2012 01:00:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

This book is my favorite read of all time as Neil Young is my favorite musician of all time. As I read each sentence, I feel so strangely connected to him. I find myself constantly saying out loud, "Yes, exactly!" I haven't finished the book because I am savoring every second of the read, I even like to go back and reread parts because I find it good for my soul... Everytime I listen to one of his songs, I always say,"Thank you Neil" and my little 6 year old son that has autism always claps after a song~he GETS it too:) So "Thank you Neil" for writing this incredible book...

At 10/19/2012 01:37:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed your insights and sentiments, as usual. I have not yet read WHP but saw it the other day walking past a news stand and it got me jazzed up. I found the review quite frankly arrogant, a bit insulting, and think the author himself has lost the forest from the trees. I think in many ways that's the difference between artists (like Neil) who create art and the critics that review them. Great artists are original thinkers unconstrained by social norm, by what "should be". While the average critic is completely constrained by those narrow paradigms, almost to the point of blindness ... as such the critic here approaches the memoir from completely the wrong context and his filter for judging Neil as an artist and a person is corrupted. In other words, the critic fancies himself as broad, intelligent, sophisticated -- first because he's been given the role of critic in a "prestigious" magazine, second because he "appreciates" the value of being well read or least for having an appreciation of literature, and third because its part of his self image. As such, his basic premise is that someone who is not well read, and whom he doesn't click with, must be shallow, simple, out of touch ... he labels Neil, demeans him, calls him a simpleton because Neil as a thinker and artist doesn't fit into the neat little box through which the critic assume all 'intellectual' or 'sophisticated' people must fit. The irony of this is that the simpleminded one, the narrow one, is none other than the critic, too steeped in his grandiose self image to see his own intellectual faults, and too self proud to realize his own narrowness.

Neil's greatness is multifaceted but one aspect is his intense commitment to his own originality ... his own original world view, or following his own muse where ever it might lead ... in a musical sense we're all aware of the many varied places his muse has taken him (and us) ... we could expand broadly on that ... the varied styles, bands, sounds, melodies, costumes, ect ... but the muse perhaps is also how he's lived his life, why he's writing books now, developing alternative energy technologies, ect ... as such I'd venture to say he his inspiration comes from reading the world in ways other than via the literary classics and that perhaps doing so would infect his own creative process ... as such his artistic greatness might be enhanced if not protected from his inclination to avoid reading ... or for that matter listening to lots of of music, ect ... but also, the fact he's not a reader, and his approach to interacting, or for that matter writing, as a regular guy doesn't negate his intelligence, depth, intellectual abilities.

As such, my conclusion is that Neil wrote a book on his terms in his way because that's the way he does things ... he has no interest in doing it the way "you're supposed to" which is why its probably interesting ... of course, within the confines of the narrow critic who is self absorbed in his own self image and in his perceived impression of society's "standards" -- (perhaps that's the purpose of a critic, to be society's standard bearer?) and therefore he will ultimately come to reject something that veers too far off from the path he deems acceptable.

Therefore, I think the critic missed the point and especially mis read Neil, and took Neil's lack of upfront pretense as a sign of simplicity when in fact the author, due to his misguided pretentious filter, should have seen a deep, thoughtful, sincere, intellectually deep and unique artist.


At 10/19/2012 02:00:00 PM, Blogger Tweck9 said...

Right on Dan!!!

Excellent assessment, in my opinion. I have often had the same feeling about reviewers who come down hard on Neil (or any artist) with a seeming self-satisfied arrogance.

Honestly, I don't think this guy is out to trash Neil; he's just speaking from the bias that informs his view of art, but you noted quite well that in this case, the whole piece appears to reflect on, and come from, the reviewer's own self-image.

Which in some ways negates the validity of the review, or at least disqualifies it from being an unbiased piece of literary journalism.

Not that the reviewer is all wrong, or so conceited as to appear hateful; he does appear to genuinely like Neil Young, I think, and as no one said, it is an interesting piece, but where he veers off course is expressing a certain dismay at Neil's lack of applied academia, and even suggesting, at least subtextually, that Neil's artistic accomplishments suffer from it.

Ah, reviewing the reviewers. This is obviously a favorite pastime of mine.

At least he's not the hated Rob Harvilla from the Village Voice, whose name I've never forgotten since his review of Neil's concert at MSG back in like 2007 or 2008. That guy was just an unabashed a-hole.

At 10/19/2012 02:26:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Totally agree I don't think this reviewer went in having it out for Neil and might (probably) likes his music ... I do think the internet though is helpful in holding critics accountable for their work in ways that were never possible pre-internet .... these guys have huge circulation compared to the average Joe posting on the internet, and no matter how well you rebut the review it won't ever put the toothpaste back into the tube, but at least its out there somewhere in cyberspace -- thoughtful people who made thoughtful arguments that go a long way, if not completely, to discredit these misguided assessments of Neil as an artist and particularly as a person.


At 10/19/2012 02:52:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

Thanks all for the comments.

A very interesting discussion of the writing art form. As a blogger, we can safely say that we're not trying to create great literature here @ TW. But we do what we do and we're pretty certain that Mr Wilkinson wouldn't necessarily appreciate what we do either. sigh.

Apparently, we were not the only one who found The New Yorker review by Alec Wilkinson to be off target. See update added above for more.

At 10/19/2012 03:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

..."talking with him was like being trapped with someone whose mind had no reach".

For crying out loud. I don't know if I've ever read a more dismissive and erroneous statement.

I've not kept up with Neil's work over the past few years, but IMO his "reach" is unparalleled since early Dylan.

I can still remember the rage and fear Neil tapped into, and made me (and countless others since) feel, in mid-1970 when I first heard "Ohio".

And my wonder when Neil transported me from the conquest of Mexico to a lost love in "Cortez".

And many other instances.

No reach?

At 10/19/2012 03:33:00 PM, Blogger setlistthief said...

Wow, so many thoughts to share...Matthew L. your insights are very perceptive. Thanks, Matthew!

Interesting comparison between Bob and Neil. I raced through "Waging Heavy Peace," never wanting it to finish. "Chronicles," I got bogged down about two thirds of the way through. Thanks, Bob!

The most jarring story in the book was learning how close we came to losing Neil. That makes the last few years of music that much more of a gift. And the current tour sounds like it is simply beyond description. Thanks, Crazy Horse!

TW is a place usually full of great vibes (save for the occasional troll) for us Neil fanatics. Thanks, Thrasher!

And Neil, good luck with the sobriety. I guess you really can write straight. Thanks, Neil!

At 10/19/2012 04:05:00 PM, Anonymous James Houlahan said...

I thought the New Yorker article was misguided, and misses the point as to core elements of Neil's music and creative process. I can't see how any of Neil's songs would have been better if had read Tolstoy or Dickens or whoever...assuming Neil has not, in fact, read those authors. Neil's memoir IS rambling at times, goofy once in awhile, and sentimental maybe...but it provides a conversational tone of honesty, focus, and passion, detailing a complicated life of creative and commercial success, heartbreaking tragedy, and authentic, beautiful music. It's as if Neil were there in person, giving you a straight account as he sees it, warts and all. I would expect nothing else from Neil Young. And, if Wilkinson's goal with literature is to "enter intimately into minds remote in time or place from my own," he utterly failed as a writer in that attempt with Neil Young. I came away thinking Wilkinson just did not understand his subject. Oh well, better luck next time, Alec.

At 10/19/2012 04:21:00 PM, Blogger asg said...

I think SHAKEY was all over the map, and maybe not in a good way...Neil's book is not chronological, but the transitions feel fairly smooth...or I'm enuff of a fan that I would read ANYTHING he wrote...w/o having read all 20+ posts, it feels like that's how his mind works...

At 10/19/2012 08:02:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neils guitar speaks to me, thats what matter,,,
Mauro Ferrari
Buenos Aires, Argentina.

At 10/19/2012 11:03:00 PM, Anonymous Sandy Horne said...

I loved the book. It felt as if he was writing it TO the reader, not FOR the reader (does that make sense?).

Of course, being someone who follows Neil closely, I was aware of all his diverse interests, trains, LincVolt, Pono, etc. So, as he wove his way thru these topics, I was able to follow along, no problem. But it did occur to me that if someone was a more casual fan, it may have appeared somewhat, um, I don't know, scattered??

I think what I loved most was when he would share his very personal thoughts and feelings. For example when he spoke about Ben Young, or even just how the air smelled while driving and contemplating his surroundings.

For those of us who love him, it was a gift. For those looking for a certain structure or style, the whole point may be missed. His humanness, his humor, his fears.

Peace, Sanndy

At 10/19/2012 11:10:00 PM, Anonymous Sandy Horne said...

I am drastically changing the subject, but I feel it is important for those on this site to know that one of our comerades, BIGCHIEF, has suffered a massive stroke and is in critical condition.

We have had many conversations about this site and Thrasher. This was (and hopefully will be agian)an important part of his life.

His contributions have been nothing short of astounding.... Please keep him in your thoughts.

Peace and Love, Sandy

At 10/20/2012 01:03:00 AM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

Big Chief, I am thinking about you and praying for your recovery...

At 10/20/2012 02:43:00 AM, Blogger Greg Mantho said...

Great comments here, and I too wish Big Chief all the best, and hopefully a full recovery. Big heart, big thoughts, big wake you leave behind here on TW. Big recovery, Big Chief.

A Friend Of Yours

At 10/20/2012 05:32:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It doesn't seem to have occurred to the reviewer or many others that Neil was playing him for a goat when he said he doesn't read.

Neil doesn't read -- ya, right . . .

There are subtle indications in many of his lyrics that he's quite well read. He's a complex and very articulate guy who enjoys appearing more simple than he is, having people on, upsetting their expectations, keep them off-balance, and being generally elusive -- perhaps particularly pseudo-intellectuals in the pseudo-intellectual press.

And trust me, in conversation sometimes he lulls you into thinking there’s not much going on and then he’ll give you a crooked grin and just vector you between the eyes with something devastatingly insightful and thought provoking, sort of a cross between Nietzsche and cattle prod.

No don’t worry, there’s nothing deep there.

'If I could hold on to just one thought for long enough to know / Why my mind is moving so fast and the conversation is slow . . .'

At 10/20/2012 05:40:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Addendum to previous . . .

Gee, just read about Big Chief.

I've read and enjoyed so many of your comments.

Everyone here is with you man.


At 10/20/2012 08:04:00 AM, Blogger peter d. said...

@anon 05:32:00 - those were my first thoughts too, and most certainly if the interviewer had the same tone of voice during the interview as he displays in this review... Neil won't give you what you want.

Another tought: maybe the answer Neil gave was in context with the subject of the interview at that point, being song writing - inspiration - reading.

I could fully understand Neil will have said he does not read TO BE inspired. Any art that comes from a deliberate search for inspiration, is not the kind he's aiming for, that's for sure...

But of course, anyone being a tiny bit familiar with this artist knows he does read...

At 10/20/2012 08:05:00 AM, Blogger peter d. said...

And be well, BC!

At 10/20/2012 09:48:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

Thanks Sandy for the comment and impressions. That's pretty much our take on the book as well. Actually, the book may be reaching a larger audience than one might have expected maybe due to its "unique simple openness".

The news on BigChief is hitting us hard. BigChief is in our special circle of TW commententers of the moment. Not too many folks get multiple CotMs. BigChief was always insightful and often provocative in his comments which is why we loved them so much.

Our spirits here @ TW are sending positive vibes your way. And we hope all reading will do so as well. During BSB tonight we'll find that special moment in the music where the magic happens and hope you can feel it too.

be well our fre3ind. we all want you back here and healthy.


At 10/20/2012 10:06:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

ps - here's one of BigChief's recent comments which we highlighted: NEW VIDEO: "Ramada Inn" - Neil Young & Crazy Horse

At 10/20/2012 10:17:00 AM, Blogger Tweck9 said...

Get well, Big Chief!! Your awesome style and insights 'round these parts are indispensable!

At 10/20/2012 04:21:00 PM, Anonymous Juliane Waack said...

Wilkinson should have read some more book reviews before writing his, two third of this is of his awkward experiences with Young where Wilkinson failed to have a proper conversation with him because apparently Wilkinson never talks about things he experienced but only about what he read and what something reminds him of – at least that’s what I got from his text.

I am not the biggest fan of Young myself but reading books doesn’t make you a great musician or songwriter, actually, relating to your own experiences more often than not beats all literary references because then you relate to your audience as well – unless they are Wilkinson and get frustrated when they can’t find quotes and ideas by their favorite authors, so they can feel validated as intellectuals. Quoting as many authors and philosophers in his review, as he could cram in there, Wilkinson probably would also suggest how beautiful old blues songs would be, if only their creators had read some more.

At 10/20/2012 07:51:00 PM, Blogger Dan1 said...

Big Chief,
Wishing you a speedy recovery!!!

At 10/20/2012 08:56:00 PM, Blogger Mr Henry said...

My thoughts and prayers are with you Big Chief and with your family as I wait for Lucinda's set at Bridge School.

Gott schutze Dich

At 10/21/2012 04:07:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hello Matthew L.
I read your comments today whilst at work on my break.
Cant believe how much you enticed me into your views on Neil Youngs natural brilliance as a man and musician. I agree with just about everything you said. And you wrote it beautifully.
Thanks for your thoughts they gave me much pleasure as what you described came straight from my heart.but i wish i could articulate it as well as you.
P.s I am quite new to this blogging business. In fact this is the first time i have ever "blogged" before...

At 10/21/2012 04:50:00 PM, Anonymous Lloyd said...

Neil has obviously read his dad's Scott Young books and newspaper lifestyle essays. Now there is a storyteller ! He mentions in his book other writers, friends of his parents, like Robertson Davies. No doubt he has been exposed to this brilliant writer as well.
The New Yorker reporter could learn a lot by reading those two authors.

At 10/22/2012 01:02:00 AM, Blogger Kimball said...

Big Chief, know that as I've read comments on thrasher's wheat over the past several years, seeing your name on the next comment is always a welcome feeling because I know something thoughtful is coming. I, along with many of your friends on TW, are hoping for your recovery and return to full power. Until then I hope you find comfort in music and that it will help you heal from the inside out.

At 10/22/2012 02:36:00 PM, Anonymous pieceofcrap said...

I think the New Yorker piece is one of the few really thought provoking pieces on Neil's writing habits in a lot of years.
Sure, on details, the piece may be off target, but at the core, it might be right on the mark. This guy hasn't read a book since third grade, and it shows.
Let's be real, Neil has never been a reader like Bob Dylan or Lou Reed, and it shows in his lyrics. He doesn't read, except maybe Kansas road maps, he mainly just drives around, watches a lot of tv ("Campaigner", "Mideast Vacation", Let's Roll") or leafs through some magazines ("Ohio"). Which is not to say these are n't great lyrics - damn, they (sometimes) are! - but it's no use denying it: Neil is an intuitive, visual, sensory kind of writer, not a cerebral, literary or intellectual one.
The New Yorker guy also makes a very innaresting comment about how Neil doesn't seem to be able to follow up on an abstract thought or remark. He always seems to be totally in the moment, concrete, lost in his own feelings, and without any ability to digress, intellectually.
Which may explain the emotional directness - and, in recent cases, flatness - of his lyrics.


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