Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Half-Life of Carly Simon

Boys in the Trees: A Memoir
Boys in the Trees: A Memoir by Carly Simon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Half-Life of Carly Simon

This is an enjoyable listen – and I do mean listen, since the audio version of this autobiography is read by the author and includes a musical score woven throughout – about the first half of Carly Simon’s life.

The narrative basically ends in 1984, when Carly (as I’ll take the liberty of calling her) visits the obnoxious CEO of the publishing company that bears her father’s name. Suffice it to say, I’m very glad that this book has been published by Macmillan.

Still, it’s an enchanting read – in the same way her 1988 song “Let the River Run” (too current to be mentioned in this book) can enchant you with lyrics that, while poetic and evocative, don’t necessarily make sense if you think too much about them.

That’s exactly what happens with the writing here too. It so often, and sometimes infuriatingly, lapses into semi-poetry. But Carly uses just enough significant detail about the often-shocking incidents of her life that you feel compelled to keep reading (or listening).

Charmed or bewitched, I stayed for the whole show… a “final” chapter, an epilog, then two more “chapters” (a song and a legal disclaimer). Her stories took me back to high school and the anthems of my first girlfriend -- from first kiss (“Anticipation”) through breakup (“That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be”). I never knew that Carly passed right underneath my first apartment in New York one night on her way to confront James Taylor’s lover. I recalled, years ago, first hearing her cover of Cat Stevens’ “Into White,” and thinking, “Wow, that’s random.” After listening to this book, I learned it wasn’t random at all.

So, for a few hours, I got to hang out with the cool kids, and realize that, hey, they’re just people too. In fact, even though Carly still loves him, good ole’ JT is a bit of a self-centered jerk, isn’t he? But then, the same might be said of me – and I’ll really have to hustle to contribute even a sliver of as much beauty to the world.

I’m awestruck by anyone who can look back on life without having to say, “I wish I had done that.” I appreciate, and admire, that Carly’s half-life makes for a pretty full, and memorable, book.

It will certainly be in my head the next time I visit Martha’s Vineyard. I’ll wander hand-in-hand with my wife on some street Carly might happen to be… and she won’t even know that we passed right by her.

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