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| 7 June 2013 | Reply

Published by Harper Collins
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

Pete Townshend - Who I Am book

Starting strongly, Townshend draws the reader into his story with the skill of a novelist and storyteller – hardly surprising from the mastermind behind Tommy and Quadrophenia, who also spent many years as author/editor/publisher at Faber & Faber in the U.K.

Soon enough though, he falls prey to the same scourge that blights many novelists: the third act of four in the book is bogged down in the details, mired in the mundane.

In Townshend’s case, it’s a merry-go-round of addiction, infidelity, obscure projects and endless self-criticism.

The whole of this weighty, 500-page tome is subject to the author’s notorious penchant for over-analysis, the man constantly troubled and thinking too much, and in the same way he describes not letting himself take advantage of willing young ladies in the early days of The Who’s success, he steadfastly uses the book as a platform for minutia rather than a celebration of his successes.

Whilst his lack of conceit and runaway ego is refreshing in some respects, there is a self indulgent desire to explain minor decisions, and to justify or self-criticise his failures (which are often still pretty impressive successes by the standards of us mere mortals), but giving nothing of himself and leaving more questions unanswered than addressed.

There’s plenty of excess, especially in the heady days’s of the 60’s and 70’s, and admissions of drug use, craziness and some exploratory sexual escapades with both men and women, which should keep casual readers titillated.

There’s also repeated detailed analysis of his abusive childhood – much of which was repressive as well as repressed, involving physical abuse and some strong implications of sexual abuse as well. When you consider this part of Townshend’s story against his detailed explanation/justification of his arrest for viewing child pornography, it seems pretty obvious to the reader that the two are fundamentally linked, and we’re not dealing with some sleazy perv, but a man looking for answers to his own confusion, and hoping – perhaps naively – to help others avoid a similar fate.

Category: Book Reviews

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