WAGING HEAVY PEACE by Neil Young (Blue Rider), 502 pages, $31.50 cloth. Rating: NN
In chapter 16 of Neil Young's rambling memoir, he admits (or is he boasting?) that he's only rewritten one paragraph so far in his first attempt at writing. Unfortunately, this is obvious to anyone still reading that far.
It's also obvious that he resisted edits to his convoluted musings that could have made this self-indulgent mess a much more enjoyable read. Then again, as you learn by the end (if you get there), this approach extends across all his ventures and has helped produce some of the most enduring songs of his generation.
For a fan, the idea of getting an unfiltered look into Young's brain seems thrilling at first, but does Young have to document every single thought as it comes to him, without contemplating whether it's worth committing to paper? You end up with some insight into his creative process, but a lot of the interesting stuff is buried under hundreds of pages of deluded ranting about his love of expensive toys - writing geared to other nostalgia-addicted boys.
He loves his toy trains, and invested heavily in a company that makes them. This is kind of sweet at first, but gets depressing when you realize he genuinely believes he can achieve nirvana if only he can get the simulation of sounds, lights and steam perfect.
Similarly, he's convinced himself that the impractical money pit of his electric-powered 1959 Lincoln Continental will someday save the planet - or at least give him some peace of mind - if he ever gets it working properly.
His heart is in the right place when it comes to his high-fidelity digital audio project, Pono, but his tirades about how music has lost its magic because of MP3s are annoying.
Maybe music doesn't sound good to him any more, but millions of people who haven't had their hearing damaged by decades of loud guitar playing still find plenty to love. Even he seems to realize toward the final pages that his book is coming across as a deranged infomercial for his many non-musical projects.
Unfortunately, he was plainly too stubborn to rethink his approach and change course.
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