A collection, edited by Andrew Blauner and featuring Rick Moody, Jane Smiley and others, combines personal memories with Fab Four faves
And still, the Beatles. Will we ever get over them? However many remasterings of the records there are, however many dramas, documentaries and memoirs of their life and times, it seems there will always be room for something more. The flood of material about the band will never slacken, because our appetite for it will never be sated.
I fell ravenously on In Their Lives, even if I did balk at the subtitle Great Writers on Great Beatles Songs. While nearly all of the 28 essays here feature great Beatles songs (lets draw the line at Yellow Submarine and Octopuss Garden) its a bit presumptuous to claim greatness for the other half of the equation. Charmed as I am by David Duchovny (Dear Prudence) Im not sure hes even a great actor, let alone a great writer. And Francine Prose (Here Comes the Sun) really lets the side down by including her nine-year-old granddaughter as co-author (were all delighted that Emilia likes the Fab Four). A few others here are too eager to share their generational bonding over the Beatles, though I did like the moment Ben Zimmer asked his son where he would look if he wanted to parse the lyrics of I Am the Walrus. His reply: Goo goo ga Google. Lennon would have laughed.
Editor Andrew Blauner perhaps encouraged this me first angle when he was rounding up his contributors. Several novelists Jane Smiley, Joseph ONeill, Mona Simpson, Elissa Schappell choose a song essentially as a springboard to reminiscence. Rebecca Mead discusses Eleanor Rigby as the associative memory-link with the divorcing parents of a childhood friend, and so to the realisation that adults werent just there to provide the untroubled backdrop to the dramas of children. Its nicely written, but its relevance is tenuous. The collection can be roughly divided between two types of essay: What the Beatles meant to me, and Why the Beatless songs were great. I much prefer the second type, because they are specific and analytical, whereas the my-life-was-never-the-same-again riff might have been triggered by any sort of musical madeleine.