I realize that Joni Mitchell is talented but confess that I am not a big fan. Still, a lot of people that I respect and admire have a lot of respect for her, and I found myself intrigued by this book. Once I got started I couldn't put it down. I really enjoyed Michelle Mercer's writing, and was impressed that her other book was about Wayne Shorter. Wayne was a member of Miles Davis' group and Weather Report, and is a very talented composer and musician. If he vouches for Mitchell's authenticity, that is good enough for me.
Though the book focused on Joni Mitchell, there were a few places where Michelle Mercer turned the spotlight on herself. First she confessed that she would test potential boyfriends by their reaction to Joni's Blue album, and the other was where she told a story about camping with her boyfriend and his father who would set up his tent and then kick back and listen to Dan Fogelberg on his boombox. She felt that Free Jazz was the appropriate music to contemplate nature's tranquility, and would storm off on an angry hike. I would have failed the Joni Blue litmus test miserably, but I might also object to Fogelberg as idyllic background music, though John Denver would be more likely to set me off on a rampage than Fogelberg. Free Jazz would not be my choice for a replacement, as I was more of a Jazz Purist, who didn't much care for either Free Jazz or Smooth Jazz.
But I digress. WYTMAIA is not a biography of Joni Mitchell, though there is plenty of biographical materiel used to illustrate various points. Rather, it is a series of essays organized around Joni Mitchell's music and her approach to writing. There are a lot of quotes from various interviews of Joni Mitchell and those who have known her, the bulk of them being interviews of Joni Mitchell by the author, Michelle Mercer.
What is astonishing about WYTMAIA is the way the author delves so deeply into the topics--for instance on the topic of confessional writing she goes all the way back to St. Augustine and Jean-Jacques Rousseau--but always brings it back to Joni Mitchell and her music. No matter how far afield she seems to go to make a point, it always does pertain to the topic. St. Augustine for instance was not only one of the first to practice confessional writing, he was also the topic of a song by Bob Dylan, one of Joni's main influences as a song writer, and Miss Mitchell herself had some pretty strong opinions of the Saint. She didn't like him.
Michelle Mercer has made a very good case for Joni Mitchell's music being worthy of my attention. I am anxious to listen to more of it, and would also like to read more of Michelle's writing. I am curious to hear what she has to say about Wayne Shorter in her previous book aptly titled Footprints. All in all, I was very impressed with Michelle Mercer's prose style, and enjoyed reading this book. I will gladly take both Mitchell and Michelle as they are.