Friday, June 4, 2010

Shoulda Been There - But You Can Read About It!

My copy of Jude Southerland Kessler's bio-novel about John Lennon, Shoulda Been There, arrived in the mail yesterday. I quite hungrily devoured the first six or seven chapters, and I have to say that I am quite impressed with this work. Kessler's prose is easy to read, without being trite, and she has obviously done her homework on the life of John Lennon.

This is no fanciful flight into unsubstantiated realms of imagination. Each chapter ends with a note from the author, detailing what parts of the chapter are historical fact, and which are conjecture. In the majority of cases so far, it's usually just the dialogue between characters that falls under the category of "conjecture," but even here, Kessler has done an amazing job of capturing the "voice" of each character, which puts a lot less strain on the reader's shoulders to have to suspend disbelief.

At the end of the book, Kessler includes bibliographical information, broken down chapter-by-chapter (i.e., the heading for Chapter 1 might include a reference to Ray Coleman's work, Hunter Davies's work, and so on). If the reader feels like verifying the stories, or learning more about the historical events, the sources are all right there for the taking. She also includes a glossary of Scouse words, which alone is worth the price of admission, as far as I'm concerned. (From this day forward, when I am worn out at the end of a long day, I will refer to myself as being "creased".)

Much of the dialog between characters is made up, although, not all of it. The bits that are made up are lovingly peppered with subtle Beatle-related references that are "guaranteed to raise a smile" for the die-hard fan (e.g., when John's Uncle George remarks to Mimi that toddler John is bound to become "toppermost of the poppermost" in one way or another). And it precisely through this dialog that Kessler brings new life and personality to these characters; for my part, I feel like I'm getting to know John a little better, and that's never a bad thing.

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