Author: Mark Oliver Everett
What’s The Story, Morning Glory: The life & times of an indie rocker
Who Are You: Awesomely weird
Do Ya Think I’m Sexy: Most definitely
Let’s Give Them Something To Talk About: Mental illness, suicide, quantum theory
Paperback Writer: Like talking to a new old friend
Add It Up: An absolute pleasure, sir
What’s the Story, Morning Glory?
Things the Grandchildren Should Know is a straight-up autobiography – the story of Mark Oliver Everett, founding member of the band Eels. It pretty much follows the typical autobiography format – y’know, birth, childhood, formative experiences, relationships, life, etc – but this is no regular autobiography y’all. Holy shizz is it amazing! Everett basically gives us an all-access pass to his most intimate thoughts and experiences, and is disarmingly honest and refreshing. The music industry is so full of posturing — and don’t get me wrong, I totally get why this is the case. After all, it’s a world in which the more notorious you are the better — but Everett cuts through all of that and is just like “dudes, this is who I am”. He shares a no-holds-barred account of his dysfunctional family, his strained relationship with his father, the suicide of his sister, and his personal depression and crippling self-doubt. It’s all very honest and real, but totally not a downer! He’s a pretty hilarious guy. Here’s an example:
Thanks to my ridiculous, sometimes tragic, and always unsteady upbringing, I was given the gift of bone-crushing insecurity. One thing you’ll notice about people with mental problems is the constant self-absorption. I think that’s because it’s such a struggle just to be who they are, so they have a hard time getting past it. I am no exception to this rule. But luckily for me, I found a way to deal with myself and my family by treating it all like a constant and ongoing art project, for you all to enjoy. Enjoy! You’re welcome!
Who Are You?
Everett’s voice is at turns whimsical, lighthearted, poignant and profoundly compassionate. He comes across as somewhat misanthropic and cynical at times, but also oddly innocent, and the effect is quite charming. In short, he seems kinda awesome. The only times I was a bit like “eh…” were a couple of instances where he described girls who had dissed him in high school who later tried to contact him after he gained some success in the music industry, and he’s all “how you like me now?” but I really can’t take too much exception with this because honestly, who amongst us hasn’t had such thoughts? There was a guy I had an epic crush on when I was 16 who shot me down because he said I was too shy (I mean, I was only tongue-tied around him because I liked him) and then proceeded to date a succession of total sluts (fyi, lest you think I am being mean, I think sluts are the awesomest people ever. I totally wish I was more of one). If I ever hit the big time and this dude was like “hey Spencer what’s up? Remember all those times in class?” I’d be all “sorry, high school was soooo long ago, what was your name again?” but of course I would secretly be thinking “haha, in your face, guy”. Don’t lie, you would too. After all, what’s the point in being famous if you can’t rub it in the faces of people who blew you off? (No, I jest. Obviously the point of being famous is to get lots of free stuff). But anyway, most people would try to pretend that they didn’t get satisfaction out of such things, whereas Everett totally cops to it, so I guess this is another example of his honesty. This guy is not hiding how he feels, and you gotta respect him for it.
Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?
Confession: after reading this book, I have a huge crush on Mr. E. If I wasn’t already married, I would totally try to marry him. He’s just…awesome, and cool, and offbeat in a good way. He doesn’t come right out and say it, but I got the impression that throughout his life he has had a fair amount of success with the ladies. I like this anecdote from his freshman year of high school:
“Later in the year I got caught in the bushes outside the school, drinking gin that I had stolen from my dad’s liquor cabinet and going down on my girlfriend”.
That’s pretty badass. Juvenile delinquency is hot. Also, most of the dudes that I knew in ninth grade, it wouldn’t even have occurred to them to try to get their girlfriends off. That’s mad proper.
I dig his style:
What a dapper fellow
Flowers? For little old me? You shouldn’t have
I will hang out with you in the bushes anytime, Mr. E
Let’s Give Them Something To Talk About
Wow, guys. Like I said, it’s no-holds-barred here. There are so many instances throughout the book where Everett talks about his difficulties with depression and anxiety, but he never comes across as whiny or self-indulgent. It’s like, when people try to hide these things they often become more ashamed of them, but when they just put them out there it diffuses a lot of the stigma. I think it’s fair to say that frank discussions of mental health issues are still fairly rare in our society (although that’s improving) so I say bravo to Mr. E for being so unabashedly straightforward and talking about being depressed and insecure like it’s no big deal. Which is totally how it should be. He’s also very open about his sister’s difficulties with drug and alcohol addiction, and her eventual suicide.
ALSO, I had no idea about this before reading the book, but Everett’s dad, Hugh Everett III, was a big-time quantum mechanics guy who postulated the theory of “many-worlds” or parallel universes. Look, I am no scientician, but I will try to break it down for you — basically it is the idea that reality, rather than being a singular observable determinable thing, has many possible outcomes which are all equally probable. Not only that, there are also many versions of both the past and the future, which leads to an infinite number of multiple realities or universes happening simultaneously. This stuff is tied in with all of that Schrodinger shiz which completely confounds me. Like, HOW CAN THE CAT BE BOTH DEAD AND ALIVE AT THE SAME TIME, SCIENCE??? …. Gah!!! My brain is exploding.
There are two quotes on the bookjacket that I think speak volumes:
“Everett is the Kurt Vonnegut of the rock world” — Rolling Stone
“One of the best books ever written by a contemporary artist” — Pete Townshend
That’s some high praise. And yeah, I have to agree. Reading this book is a lot like being at a party and randomly falling into a really intimate conversation with someone you kind of know as a casual acquaintance, and coming away from the conversation thinking “this person is so awesome that I totally want to hang out with them all the time”. I was seriously really sad when the book ended because I just wanted Mr. E to keep telling me stories. This little window into the world through his eyes was such a delightful, exciting new adventure, and isn’t that ultimately what the experience of reading a book is supposed to be all about?
Add It Up
People, if you’re going to read just one autobiography this year, make it this one. It’s so much more immediate and intimate than the usual fare. I love it x 1 billion.
Download this: Fresh Feeling
This is one of my favorite songs ever. I listened to it every morning for like a year when I was going through some particularly trying times, and it cheered me up immeasurably.
Yeah, I know, I’m giving ’em out like candy…but honestly, I’m just reviewing my favorite books first.
All excerpts from Things the Grandchildren Should Know © 2008 by Mark Oliver Everett