Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Carly Swings Tree To Tree (Ava and C.I.)

The celebrity memoir is a difficult thing.

It's easy to come off pompous.

It's easy to come off shallow.

Worst of all, it's easy to come off boring.

In the last ten years, there have been some awful memoirs and there have been a few strong ones.  There's even been one classic -- Janis Ian's SOCIETY'S CHILD.

That 2008 book combined an interesting story and a sense of perspective with a voice that truly sang.

Eight years later, there's finally a book to equal it, Carly Simon's BOYS IN THE TREES.


In that sure and natural voice she's perfected in song after song, Carly tackles her own life to offer a warts-and-all mirror that is both frank and caring.

As Kat's noted, media attention has been on the men who came on to Carly (some of whom she slept with, some of whom she didn't).  And, of course, her revealing one of the three men who inspired "You're So Vain" (she reveals Warren Beatty) has also resulted in headlines and copy.

But the book is much more than that.

It's pro-female, among other things.

That should go without saying.

But can't.

Not when Judy Collins uses yet another book to attack Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Mimi Farena and countless other women.

Women register in Carly's life.

Her mother Andrea, her sisters Lucy and Joanna, her friends Ellen and Vieri Salvadori, among others, come across as full bodied people and she also offers kind words for many other women (including Joni Mitchell).

But the big point the reviewers seem to miss, is that this is a family memoir.

Oh, her first husband?


This is a memoir of the Simon family.

It's the story of her parents, her siblings and her children.

Carly was among the most under appreciated songwriters of her generation for years.

It took film work ("Coming Around Again" from HEARTBURN and "Let The River Run" from WORKING GIRL specifically) and a growing awareness of sexism for Carly's accomplishments to register with the larger critical world.  Even so, she remains one of the few singer-songwriters not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

A companion piece to the book, SONGS FROM THE TREES, provides a strong reminder of just how gifted a songwriter she is.  (And, of course, she's probably the best contralto of the rock era.)

While time has given Carly her due, in the book, one mission appears to be giving her father his due.

Richard Simon started Simon & Schuster and it's this accomplishment -- and the efforts to devalue it by some at the company today -- that closes the book.  Ben and Sally Taylor, like their mother and her sisters Lucy and Joanna and brother Peter, like her father and her mother, have lived artistic lives, have found meaning in art.  That's the theme of the book that everyone seems to be missing.

Carly's written a book that's forthright, confident and entertaining.  The boys may be in the trees, but like Sheena Queen of the Jungle, Carly's swinging tree to tree with grace and panache.

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