Gary Tillery has managed in this concise book to offer us a quality biography of the musical giant John Lennon, a biography as sensitive as any in print. Not only does he share the details of Lennon's chaotic childhood, suggesting the factors that built his adult self as an artist who was driven to discover the meaning in a world that seem to lack meaning. But wisely Tillery spends enough time with the personal traumas as well as the germinal events the resulted in the formation of the singing group the Beatles (a clever reference to the Beat generation in altering the beetle spelling!) and the changes that occurred with fame. The book also has a superb chronology that allows the reader to follow the important phases in this man's life and career.
But the book is not only a fine biography that makes the reader revisit the heyday of the Beatles, it goes much further than that. Tillery uses his matrix of an artist's life to unveil the development of the man who would become a popular philosopher especially among young people asking the same questions that Lennon explored. His wise but common street talk and his actions delved into the important issues of his time - challenging authority and instead searching for our own reality, that reality that allows of self-transformation, fostering the concept of world peace, supporting feminism, and changing the things we feel need revision. Though these ideals may sound simplistic, in Lennon's words and actions he stood for the kind of being that cared for mankind and would settle for nothing less than self improvement and involvement in the deeds that would improve not only his time but also the future.
What makes Gary Tillery's THE CYNICAL IDEALIST: A SPIRITUAL BIOGRAPHY OF JOHN LENNON important is the manner in which he writes: clarity of prose, reality of expression of analyses, and commitment to honor an important man of our times. As Tillery points out the other peace leaders - Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. - met the same end as Lennon, death by assassination or murder. Without resorting to puffery or hero worship, Tillery places Lennon's accomplishments with the arts as well as with the framework of political upheaval of his day to reveal a man who will be remembered not only for his prodigious talent, but also for his influence on philosophical thinking. This is a fine book that deserves wide readership. Grady Harp, November 09