What it's like to be quite talented and yet very alone.One of those
musicians whose work regularly graces critics' year-end polls,
Everett records sometimes as E but more famously as head of the
forward-looking alt-rock ensemble Eels. Normally that resume would
be the loudest of warnings for readers to stay far away from this
man's memoir. In defiance of expectations, however, it turns out to
be a straightforward and resolutely unpretentious take on a life
overflowing with gratuitous tragedy. Graced with brooding,
inattentive parents and a loving but terminally unhinged sister,
all of whom were dead before he could enjoy middle age, Everett
grew up in the D.C. suburbs working lousy jobs and wheel-spinning
away his life. An impulsive cross-country road trip to Los Angeles
and three further years of miserable employment followed. A couple
lucky breaks later, he was recording an album, touring the world
and calling the likes of Aimee Mann his friends. This could have
been just another self-indulgent musician's attempt to commit to
prose some autobiographical songs. Instead, it's a harrowing mantra
of loss and solitude, as depression and death dispose of one family
member after another until Everett has nobody left but himself and
the occasional crazy girlfriend. He delivers the bad news in
exemplary prose, a calmly assured march of simple declarative
sentences, scrubbed nearly clean of any artifice. This is entirely
on purpose: "Out of respect for you, gentle reader," he writes,
"I'm going to stick with the direct approach." There are times when
Everett's style can be too simple, leading some sections to sound
more like a tour diary than a memoir. But his refusal to wallow in
self-pity - or self-indulgent writing - is both refreshing and
bracing.A great big grin of a book, winced out through gritted
teeth. (Kirkus Reviews)
How does one young man survive the deaths of his entire family and
manage to make something worthwhile of his life? In Things The
Grandchildren Should Know Mark Oliver Everett tells the story of
what it's like to grow up the insecure son of a genius in a wacky
Virginia Ice Storm-like family. Left to run wild with his sister,
his father off in some parallel universe of his own invention,
Everett's upbringing was 'ridiculous, sometimes tragic and always
unsteady'. But somehow he manages to not only survive his crazy
upbringing and ensuing tragedies; he makes something of his life,
striking out on a journey to find himself by channelling his
experiences into his, eventually, critically acclaimed music with
the Eels. But it's not an easy path. Told with surprising candour,
Things The Grandchildren Should Know is an inspiring and remarkable
story, full of hope, humour and wry wisdom.
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