Warm House


Warm House.
Warm House (live at BookPeople, Austin, TX, 10/20/15).

Ian Penman, in a review of Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink that ran in The Guardian last month, notes that:

Declan Patrick Aloysius MacManus (AKA Elvis Costello) says he wrote his memoir to give his sons an idea of who he used to be (“It was so much easier / when I was cruel…”), and how he came to be the man he is now.

I’m not sure where this assertion comes from – Costello’s statement of purpose might be somewhere in the text, and I do have a faint memory of having read it previously, but I can’t seem to find it now. Perhaps it’s just an assumption: why else would a father of three write down his life story? Anyway, the review goes on to complain – I’m paraphrasing here – that Costello became the man he is quite a while ago, and that the book’s account of what’s happened since isn’t all that interesting. Its back half is, Penman grouses, an “un-edgy portrait of the artist as mature craftsman.” There’s something to this: nobody’s grownuphood makes for stories as gripping as the process by which he came to be. Penman sums up the memoir’s material of more recent vintage with a sharpshooter’s precision: “I met [insert musician here, Allen Toussaint or Burt Bacharach or Paul McCartney], and he was just lovely and we worked together…” Penman prefers the earlier stuff, songwise and storywise alike, and it’s hard not to feel like the author of the book agrees: by far its liveliest prose, and for that matter the stuff that tends to be discussed most in interviews promoting it, is Costello’s era of development, the long road to stardom, his “apprenticeship,” as he calls it. No wonder, really. Costello’s kids know, after all, the man he is now. The guy that requires an introduction, an explanation, often an apology, is the one he “used to be.”

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