The Clarion

There’s something to love about Brian Wilson’s memoir

Mary Marks, Staff Writer

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A large theme in Brian Wilson’s memoir is an examination of fathers and sons. Given that my father turned me on to Brian Wilson, reading this memoir was kind of like reading it with my father. When he does get around to reading it, my father’s sure to take each word for gospel, and, though I didn’t find it a work of literary genius, I did love “I am Brian Wilson: A Memoir.”

Through what appear to be unedited paths of free association, Wilson arrives at startling insights. And, these insights are not met without funky and hilarious Brian Wilson oddities along the way.

For instance: “I was just sitting in my bedroom watching the tv set. I don’t mean I was watching a show or anything. It was just the set. I liked thinking about all the things that used to be on it.” Or, this one: “I love watching Eyewitness News. The content is not very good, but the newscasters are pleasant to watch. They have nice personalities. They also give you the weather.” The memoir is littered with these whatsits; I spent a lot of time laughing. But, they weren’t the things I enjoyed most.

Mostly, I enjoyed Wilson’s examination of process, in which he acknowledges what are familiar to any creative person: crippling self-doubt, the joy found in small moments of revelation, the requirement of reconciliation of ego and small, small humanness for the maintenance of process, and the necessity of tenacity for any artist: “…if there are periods in your life when you stop doing it—because something distracts you or makes you weak—you realize how important it is to jump right back into the game…You have to do your job and help songs come into existence.”

Mostly, I enjoyed Wilson’s near-constant references to musicians who can do no less than offer a leg up on anyone’s repertoire (i.e. it felt like an Update-Spotify party with Brian Wilson). Mostly, I enjoyed Wilson’s voice. It thrums in what is a constant, clever confessional and hop-scotch account of his musical career, his family (then and now), his tortured and rehabilitated mind, tribe, loss, surrender, and the value of rebuilding foundations. Mostly, I enjoyed how all along the way Wilson preaches hope: “Have I stayed strong?” he writes, “I like to think so. But the only thing I know for sure is that I have stayed.”

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There’s something to love about Brian Wilson’s memoir