Thursday, August 22, 2013

The John Lennon Letters

As a lifetime Beatles fan I was delighted to plunge into The John Lennon Letters. This hefty (400 page) volume  was collected, edited and annotated by Hunter Davies, who knows a thing or two about the Beatles (he penned their authorized biography, back in the day). Davies swept up reams of Lennon-abilia from family, friends, musicians, collectors and archives and organized it more or less chronologically, beginning with Lennon’s early school boy notes and ending with one of the last autographs he signed before he was gunned down in front of the Dakota apartment building in New York in December, 1980.

To characterize this collection as “letters,” though, is something of a misnomer. John Lennon appears never to have missed an opportunity to put pen to paper; he was a scribbler, a doodler, a poet, an author of liner notes, a writer of post cards and a maker of lists, and bits and pieces of everything made their way into this book. Davies provides facsimiles of the original documents and then offers a text version, mostly by way of translation -- Lennon’s handwriting was messy at best and frequently illegible. He was also given to writing in dialect (Scots, German, Shakespearean), and he made up words when it suited him. Davies makes sense of it all, and anchors his material with biographical data to provide context for the documents. 

Part chapbook and part indexed biography, this book is a revealing look at the personal life of a most enigmatic artist, and a great read for Beatles fans. 


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