The Beatles Literary Anthology

Mike Evans, Author, Stephen Hunter, Editor Plexus Publishing (UK) $24.95 (448p) ISBN 978-0-85965-315-2
When everything that can be written on a subject has been written, it's time to sift through the morass and sort out the best of it. Happily, Evans, editor of this outstanding compendium of Beatles writing, has an eye for the relevant, the telling and the truthful, as well as the acumen to organize these accounts in a way that best tells a story. Not simply a""best-of"" anthology, Evan's book functions even better as a narrative history. One will be tempted to rummage through it haphazardly, cherry-picking accounts from top-shelf personas--a young Gloria Steinem's 1964 hotel room interview with a bedraggled and irritable John Lennon; a cranky Noel Coward's summation of a Beatles' concert (""bad-mannered little shits who had a certain guileless charm and stayed on mercifully for not too long""); Cynthia Lennon's gut wrenching account of walking in on her then-husband and Yoko Ono (""They looked so right together, so naturally self-composed... I felt totally superfluous"")--but in doing so, one would miss the subtle narrative-historical arc that runs through the whole. From pre-Beatles art school days to Lennon's assassination and beyond, the book is loosely chronological but shaped by a nicely intuitive arrangement by association, so that George Martin's account of the production process of""Sergeant Pepper"" (and his dismissal of the idea that the album contains hidden drug references) is followed by an Alan Aldridge interview of Paul McCartney about the Beatles' psychedelic-era songs. The book brims with over 40 years of interviews, articles, personal accounts, reviews and essays, deftly edited and arranged to contextualize each stage of the band's evolution and organize an otherwise fragmented and disparate collection into a whole much larger than its parts. About the only thing Evans's volume lacks is Beatles fan fiction, and for that we can count ourselves grateful.
Reviewed on: 03/01/2004
Release date: 03/01/2004
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