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A moving insight into a complex man
on 21 August 2012
I almost never read biographies, but something about Eminem made me want to know more. His public image as Slim Shady often incites anger and promotes the idea that he is without any moral compass - and yet in many interviews he comes across as a soft-spoken, intelligent, and honest man that is quite at odds with that public image.
This book is sympathetically yet even-handedly written: Nick Hasted is the first to admit those times that his subject overstepped the mark, and yet manages to show us the damage - partly caused by we, the public, in our often-invasive want for celebrity gossip - that has made Marshall Mathers into the man he is. I was honestly moved by the accounts of his early life, and later his life in the goldfish bowl, and came away with the impression that this was the story of a mostly good man turned borderline insane by the crazy media-led society we live in.
The middle portions of the book, detailing his many legal battles, home troubles, criminal convictions and inflamatory lyrics may turn many off him - I admit even I found some things distasteful, as I have some of his music, and I'm largely unshockable - but the latter chapters make up for that by showing us how those things can be overcome. Nick Hasted cleverly refuses to shy away from the more unsavoury parts of Em's story while somehow helping us to understand how culture, poverty, and issues of identity may have contributed to its happening.
Eminem's battle with prescription drugs, alcohol, and lethargy ultimately make for inspiring reading, as he comes out the other side to one of the most impressive comebacks in recent music history. Listening to Recovery and its uplifting messages of re-birth and renewal, it's hard to believe just how far he's come.
On a more personal level, I am myself on prescription painkillers for a long-standing condition, and have sleeping tablets likewise for when I need them. Reading this and watching Em's many candid interviews on drug use have made me think carefully every time I reach for the pills. I now stop to think "Do I need them at this moment? Am I actually in pain right now, or going by habit?" and it helps me make a more responsible decision on when to take them. So thank you, Marshall, and thank you, Nick, for this great story.