cover image Bowie: Loving the Alien

Bowie: Loving the Alien

Christopher Sandford. Da Capo Press, $17.95 (400pp) ISBN 978-0-306-80854-8

Rock legend David Bowie, famed for his chameleonlike personality changes both onstage and off, once said that he ""couldn't decide whether I was writing the characters or the characters were writing me."" Similarly, the characters populating this biography--Bowie's own numerous personalities, his endless succession of lovers and myriad musicians and sycophants--seem to have overwhelmed its author. Sandford, author of Sting: Demolition Man (Forecasts, Oct. 13), has done his research: the book is packed with quotes and reminiscences from practically everyone who ever worked--or slept--with Bowie. A weak narrative structure makes it difficult to sort through the wealth of information, but the details of Bowie's ascent from a middle-class start through the years of drug and sex orgies to his current incarnation as happy hubby of a supermodel, painter and rock's elder statesman are engaging. Bowie's perpetual reinvention of his stage persona set the standard for the pop idols who followed him in their efforts to keep the attention of a fickle public. His private life, in all its decadent glory, set trends, too, making him an example of how to live the rock star life and come out alive. Nevertheless, this book loses steam once Bowie's '70s escapades subside, as Sandford doesn't have much insight into what the aging star has left to offer. (Dec.)