"All books are either dreams or swords,/You can cut, or you can drug, with words." - Amy Lowell, 'Sword Blades and Poppy Seed'

Monday, August 8, 2011

Clapton: The Autobiography

Clapton, Eric. Clapton: The Autobiography. New York: Broadway Books, 2007. 328 pages.

"More than a rock star, Eric Clapton is an icon, a living embodiment of the history of rock music.  Well known for his reserve in a profession marked by self-promotion, flamboyance, and spin, he now chronicles, for the first time, his remarkable personal and professional journeys....Clapton is the powerfully written story of a survivor, a man who has achieved the pinnacle of success despite extraordinary demons. It is one of the most compelling memoirs of our time." (description from book jacket)

Overall Rating: *** (out of five)

  • Tone. The general narrative style is casual and personal, like having a friend sitting and telling you a story. This helps draw the reader into the narrative.
  • Writing. In spite of the author's enthusiasm, the quality of the writing, though not horrible, is by no means memorable or outstanding in any way, which makes it a bit difficult to get into the story.
  • Plotting. Both the beginning and end of the story feel less like a cohesive narrative with a point and more like a repetition of events that have been put their for the sake of completeness rather than because they truly serve the story.

Eric Clapton's autobiography is both interesting and something of a let-down.  Any reader who wants detailed accounts of what it was like to work with various famous musicians will be disappointed.  The insights of this book do not relate to Clapton's music or his musical relationships. In fact, I believe the greatest weakness of this book is its scope. In trying to address all of his life, it short-changes many of the people and stories being addressed. Clapton would have done better to pick a certain theme or topic to write a memoir instead.

The most personal and moving part of the book is the lengthy section addressing Clapton's struggles with addiction. Here, Clapton is at his most vulnerable and his most honest, and this lends an immediacy and depth that is lacking in the rest of the book.  These difficulties offer some true introspection from Clapton, and I felt I could connect with many of the things he said about the affect on his life and the lives of his friends and family.  Unfortunately, one must get through many less than illuminating sections about his childhood and early membership in bands (notably the Yardbirds and Cream) before reaching the heart of the book.  In the end, it's up to individual readers whether they care enough to invest the time to read this book. There are some valuable observations, but not necessarily enough to validate the whole book.

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