9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Badly written hagiography,
This review is from: From Beneath the Wizard's Gown: Marc Bolan - Unglittered (Hardcover)I wanted to like this book, I really did. Marc Bolan is the first pop star I can really remember; I was far too young to go and see him live, but his corkscrew curls, unthreatening sexuality and whimsical lyrics lit up a couple of years of my childhood. He was a fairy prince with a twinkle in his eye, Narnia with its innocence slightly tarnished. He was the original toy-boy, petite and sly, just wicked enough to charm the ankle socks off daft little girls like me.
Other stories have since emerged, showing another, darker side to the magic. We've heard about the ruthlessly ambitious con-artist who'd step on his own grandmother to get to the top, the false friend who dropped people like used Kleenex, the bloated fantasist who died at the right time for his reputation.
Most of Bolan's family and friends are now dead, but in the absence of first-hand recollections I'd have hoped any biographer would look for the real man behind the charmer and the charlatan. What Tony Stringfellow gives us instead is a bunch of personal prejudices, which are more revealing about him than about his subject. Stringfellow has plainly never forgiven Bolan for "selling out", exchanging the hippy trappings of his earliest days for the star-spangled banner of glam-rock. Given that the majority of Bolan's fame rests on the latter part of his career with T.Rex, this angle seems a little counter-productive.
Instead of considering Bolan's spectacular rise and fall, most of the book is given over to minute consideration of his rambling and dyslexic notebook fragments, reproducing them with all the awe usually offered to museum manuscripts. Stringfellow even offers them as "poems" in "translated" form, though whether this improves their sense or comprehensibility is doubtful.
The problem is that Stringfellow seems happy to accept Bolan at his own romantic estimation - a "wizard", a "man blinded by love" for whom imagination was more important than life. Maybe it was. But instead of exploring the miracle of how Mark Feld the tubby little Hackney chancer conjured up superstar alter ego Marc Bolan, he paints a grandiose picture of a self-taught literary genius -- dismissing producer Tony Visconti's claim that Marc was almost illiterate and that books had to be read to him. Similarly, he bats away charges of "ruthlessness" with a quote from a teenage girl Bolan saw to a bus stop one afternoon in 1965. He was " a nice, genuine guy" who didn't "take liberties", she recalls. Well, that settles that, then.
It has to be said that the book is also appallingly written - riddled with lousy grammar, terrible spelling and chaotic punctuation, it's plainly never been near a professional editor. It's unwise to unravel comparisons with Tennyson and Spenser when you can't put together a literate sentence yourself, and the book is stuffed with indigestible arguments and unsubstantiated conclusions.
David Gilmour of Pink Floyd -- whose secretary June Child later married Bolan -- once described him as "a big pain in the arse, of course, very full of himself." Like many people in the business, though, Gilmour was also "very fond of him" - and that's the kind of enigma Stringfellow never unravels.
There's certainly a place for a good book about the glittery, glorious old snake-oil salesman. But sadly, this one doesn't come close.
first published in subba-cultcha.com
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 5 Sep 2009 20:56:47 BDT
A. Hewston says:
Thank you for that deep analysis I was close to buying this but I think I'll give it a miss.
Posted on 26 Aug 2011 08:26:37 BDT
Mr. J. T. Cunningham says:
Stick to Mark Paytress`s biography for the best book on Bolan
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