Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reidpublished 2019
The Vanity Fair Diaries 1983-92 by Tina Brownpublished 2017
White by Bret Easton Ellispublished 2019
Daisy: When we all met up at the studio that first day, I brought this basket of cakes that someone had sent over to my place at the Marmont and my notebook full of songs. I was ready.
Eddie: Daisy showed up in a thin tank top and these tiny cutoff shorts. Barely covered anything.
Daisy: I run hot and I always have. I am not going to sit around sweating my ass off just so men can feel more comfortable. It’s not my responsibility to not turn them on. It’s their responsibility to not be an asshole.
Graham: All of us started to dress a bit better. You really had to step up your game in L.A. I started wearing my shirts unbuttoned halfway down my chest. I thought I was sexy as hell.
Billy: That was about when I got really into … what is it that people call it now? A Canadian tuxedo? I was wearing a denim shirt with my jeans, pretty much every day.
Karen: I felt like I couldn’t focus on playing if I dressed in miniskirts and boots and all that. I mean, I liked that look, but I wore high-waisted jeans and turtlenecks most of the time.
Billy: As Camila was getting dressed, I went into the bathroom and I looked at myself in the mirror. I just kept telling myself I could do it. I can do this. I can do this. I walked down to the patio and then Camila came down in a white T-shirt and a pair of jeans.
Karen: She had on a yellow crochet top. She looked so pretty.
commentary: If ever there was a book that is not for everybody, but is wonderful for the right person, then Daisy Jones & The Six is it.
It is the story of a band in the late 1970s, full of scandal and drama. It would most certainly remind you of aspects of the lifecycle of Fleetwood Mac, but although there are similarities, it isn’t exactly that.
Reid has chosen to tell her story in the form of an oral history: bitty chunks, little more than a paragraph each, with the name of the speaker given for each. So for example:
Karen: I bet Warren that Daisy wouldn’t be wearing a bra and I won two hundred bucks.
Warren: We’re all deciding what we were gonna wear and I bet Karen fifty bucks that Billy wore a denim shirt and Daisy didn’t wear a bra. I won fifty bucks.
Karen: During dress, Daisy and Billy were actually speaking to each other. You could tell there had been a shift, somewhere.
Graham: We did the dress rehearsal for “Turn It Off” and it went really well.
There are upsides and downsides to this. It makes for an easy read, and the format is both funny and interesting in terms of people’s different perceptions of events. I love the format when it is used for real events, people and eras and particularly in Vanity Fair magazine, which has made the format its own – even subjects I think I am uninterested in can become compelling in VF this way. And Reid has got the VF style off to a T, I really admired and enjoyed that.
The downside is this: with a real-life oral history you do bring your own perceptions and knowledge to it, you are literally filling in linking sentences between the comments. It is, plainly, impossible to do that with an imaginary band. And so for me it took a long time to, for example, distinguish among the members of the Six and their management and entourage, I was never that clear who Pete and Warren and Rod were. One character was seen later on as being absolutely key and vital to the development of the band, but had been close to unnoticeable in the earlier parts of the book. This is because there were no ‘interviews’ with this person. There was a good structural reason for that, but it unbalanced the story somewhat.
There were some very convincing moments: Daisy talking about her first boyfriend
I was drawn to him mainly because he was drawn to me. I wanted someone to single me out as something special. I was just so desperate to hold someone’s interest.I enjoyed the book enormously – partly because I remember the era very well and because I have a huge interest in and knowledge of popular music. I think anyone with similar tastes will enjoy Daisy Jones. It tells a good story.
That oral history aspect reminded me to revisit Tina Brown’s The Vanity Fair Diaries 1983-92, a delight of a book in which she tells the factual story of how she took over the magazine in the 1980s and turned it into one of the big successes of the decade – famous names and faces flash by, Tina Brown comes over as a great personality as she lays out the honest-sounding story of her quest to build a team, to succeed, to get over mistakes, to encourage young talent. And to feature a lot of oral histories… She seems an admirable person, with great integrity. It’s also fascinating to be reminded of how much and how quickly everything changed with the coming of ubiquitous computers and the internet – no Google in this book.
And still with a 1980s feel, I also read Bret Easton Ellis’s White: a book of essays that has had some truly terrible reviews. I actually loved (90% of) it: I revere Ellis’s writing (I was astonished to find he is often mentioned on the blog, but has never featured in his own right) and have always been a defender of American Psycho. He is obviously a strange and interesting man: I can understand why some people hate him, and sometimes it feels like he is that friend whose polemics and rants you enjoy, while not agreeing with all of them, and recognizing the horror he induces in others, and even that sometimes he is indefensible.
I loved his descriptions of films, and film actors and film-making in the early part of the book, very much talking about the 1980s:; he and Tina Brown each mention the other. And his views on Trump (who was much featured in American Psycho) and American politics were well worth reading: he seemed to me to be honest and observant, and given that a huge number of people did vote for Trump, the famous bubbles we all apparently live in do need to be burst. I felt his take on current life wasn’t one I had seen or heard anywhere else. Yes he is rude about millennials and snowflakes, but he is also rude about himself and just about everyone else. But he still had something to say. And he always says it beautifully. I thought it was a hilarious book, some of it transient and more like magazine articles, but well worth reading right now for what he says about 2019.
So I have been immersed in the 1970s and 1980s, and Ellis brought me back to the present day. For better or worse.
Pictures from fashion adverts of the era.