Sunday, May 20, 2018
Books

Review: Get inside Neil Young's head with memoir 'Waging Heavy Peace'

If you like to read well-ordered, linear, neatly fact-packed memoirs, don't pick up Neil Young's Waging Heavy Peace.

Even in the world of rock stars, Young has always been an iconoclast — Thoreau might have had him in mind when he wrote that line about the man who marches to a different drummer. Young has managed to survive as a hugely influential songwriter and musician for nearly 50 years, from early folkie days through chart-topping stints with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young to his eccentric career with Crazy Horse and as a solo artist, without ever giving a fig about making audience-pleasing hit records.

Waging Heavy Peace does not explain how he managed it. But it does offer fans a trip inside Young's head, which can be a pretty interesting place.

Young explains how he came to write the book: "Not that it matters much, but recently I stopped smoking and drinking." By smoking, he means marijuana, and he finds himself at age 65 "the straightest I have ever been since I was eighteen."

He discovers one large problem with that — he can't write songs — but he becomes obsessed with writing this book, carrying a laptop with him everywhere. The result is more like a transcript of oral history than a literary memoir, with Young meandering from topic to topic, time period to time period, looping back to subjects after many chapters, telling stories in a distinctive, intimate voice that veers on a dime from sincere enthusiasm to wistful nostalgia to dry humor.

Young has made music with an astonishing array of talents — he can name-drop without name-dropping, as when he writes about "my friend Paul" without ever saying that Paul's last name is McCartney —­ and although he criticizes a few of them, he is generally warmly complimentary.

Young is also an inventor, collector (cars, model trains) and general tech head, and he devotes a lot of space to those passions. His enduring second marriage to Pegi Young and his relationship with his three children get loving treatment, and he's matter-of-fact about the family's substantial medical problems. Son Ben, whom Young calls "our spiritual leader," has cerebral palsy, which leaves him in a wheelchair, dependent and unable to speak — yet he travels with his family and has a rich life (thanks also to a staff of caregivers, on whom Young lavishes praise).

Young touches on his medical problems, too, from childhood polio to epilepsy to a brain aneurysm and how surgery for it nearly killed him, all of which he shrugs off philosophically.

Waging Heavy Peace can be frustrating at times, repetitive or evasive or cliched in spots, and Young has a cavalier attitude toward such things as dates. But get into its rhythm and you'll be rewarded with the kind of storytelling that has made Young's music so evocative. And he even has some advice for his peers:

"Writing is very convenient, has a low expense, and is a great way to pass the time. I highly recommend it to any old rocker who is out of cash and doesn't know what to do next."

Colette Bancroft can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8435.

Comments
The real stuff is how Tom Wolfe best used his write stuff

The real stuff is how Tom Wolfe best used his write stuff

om Wolfe’s best writing lifted real people into legend: car designers and astronauts and disciples of LSD. With that writing, Wolfe lifted himself into legend as well.The author of 16 books, including such bestsellers as The Right Stuff and The Bonfi...
Published: 05/18/18
Review: In Stephen King’s ‘The Outsider,’ evil can’t be true but must be true

Review: In Stephen King’s ‘The Outsider,’ evil can’t be true but must be true

On a July day, Terry Maitland, one of the most popular men in Flint City, Okla. — high school English teacher, Little League coach, husband and father, recently named the town’s man of the year — attends a teachers convention in a city over an hour’s...
Published: 05/17/18

Events: Gilbert King to discuss ‘Beneath a Ruthless Sun’ at Inkwood in Tampa

Book TalkCutter Wood (Love and Death in the Sunshine State: The Story of a Crime) will discuss and sign his nonfiction book about a murder on Anna Maria Island at 6 p.m. May 14 at Bookstore1, 12 S Palm Ave., Sarasota.The Gulfport Historical Society p...
Published: 05/11/18
Notable: As Mother’s Day nears, these new books are timely

Notable: As Mother’s Day nears, these new books are timely

NotableMore about mothersFor Mother’s Day, three new books offer a range of takes on motherhood.Beauty in the Broken Places: A Memoir of Love, Faith, and Resilience (Random House) by Allison Pataki is a memoir by a novelist whose 30-year-old husband ...
Published: 05/11/18
Review: A criminal’s confession is just the beginning in Michael Koryta’s compelling ‘How It Happened’

Review: A criminal’s confession is just the beginning in Michael Koryta’s compelling ‘How It Happened’

It’s what every investigator hopes for: a tough case finally solved when one of the criminals confesses, providing solid details and even describing where the bodies are buried.Or, in Michael Koryta’s compelling new psychological thriller How It Happ...
Published: 05/10/18
Anthony Award nominees include Tampa’s Michael Connelly, Down & Out Books

Anthony Award nominees include Tampa’s Michael Connelly, Down & Out Books

When the World Mystery Convention, a.k.a. Bouchercon, takes place in St. Petersburg in September and hands out its coveted Anthony Awards, the Tampa Bay Area will be well represented among the nominees.The award nominees, announced May 9, include Tam...
Published: 05/09/18
Updated: 05/10/18
Review: In Zora Neale Hurston’s ‘Barracoon,’ the voice of slavery’s history speaks

Review: In Zora Neale Hurston’s ‘Barracoon,’ the voice of slavery’s history speaks

It has taken Zora Neale Hurston’s book Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo" 87 years to see print. But maybe it happened at just the right time.Just a week before the book’s May 8 publication date, rapper Kanye West opined in a TMZ intervie...
Published: 05/09/18
Review: Rick Bragg’s ‘The Best Cook in the World’ a loving food memoir about his mother

Review: Rick Bragg’s ‘The Best Cook in the World’ a loving food memoir about his mother

When Rick Bragg told his mother that his new book about her would be titled The Best Cook in the World, Margaret Bragg protested: "I wasn’t even the best cook that lived on our road." Bragg writes, "I told her we couldn’t call it The Thi...
Published: 05/09/18
Review: Ace Atkins takes an artful turn with Spenser in ‘Old Black Magic’

Review: Ace Atkins takes an artful turn with Spenser in ‘Old Black Magic’

Art can bring us joy, enlarge our perspective, even enlighten us. Sometimes, though, it can make us behave badly.In Ace Atkins’ new novel, Old Black Magic, art makes people behave very badly indeed.Three works of art, to be specific. A Picasso sketch...
Updated one month ago
Events: Gilbert King to discuss ‘Beneath a Ruthless Sun’ in Sarasota

Events: Gilbert King to discuss ‘Beneath a Ruthless Sun’ in Sarasota

Book Talk Writing coach Roy Peter Clark (Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer) will hold a 90-minute workshop on finding your voice at 2 p.m. May 6 at the Oxford Exchange, 420 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. Registration $5 at bit.ly/2J9b...
Updated one month ago