Thursday, August 5, 2021

Book 296: Daisy Jones & The Six


"'She had written something that felt like I could have written it, except that I knew I couldn’t have. I wouldn’t have come up with something like that. Which is what we all want from art, isn’t it? When someone pins down something that feels like it lives inside us? Takes a piece of your heart out and shows it to you?'"

Dates read: February 15-18, 2019

Rating: 9/10

I've read enough Hollywood memoirs to know that being talented isn't necessarily a ticket to automatic success, fame, and happiness. First of all, there are plenty of talented people who never make it at all because they just didn't get the right break at the right time. And if you do get that break, the team that surrounds you can help leverage it in the right direction...or the wrong advice can send it all crashing down. And then, of course, there are the things you get access to once you've made it to a decent level of success: the sycophants, the drugs, the partying. So many chances to go wrong.

Told in the style of an oral history or Behind The Music special, Taylor Jenkins Reid's Daisy Jones & The Six gives us the story of a band who create a legendary album...and break up right in the middle of the tour, never to perform together again. Daisy is an LA girl who mostly raises herself, and rises above her It Girl beginnings through the strength of her talent as a singer and songwriter. The Six are a band rooted in the collaboration between the two Dunne brothers (Billy the lead singer, Graham the guitarist), with the remaining four drawn into their orbit over time. After some initial minor success leads Billy down the road of partying, sex, and drugs, his wife Camila helps him get clean for her and their new baby daughter. The band seems destined to work steadily but never really break out until their shared label puts Daisy on a single with The Six. It's such a hit that a joint record seems the only logical next step.

It's the writing and recording of that record, Aurora, which forms the core of the narrative. The tensions between Daisy and the already established The Six (who have internal fissures of their own) roil, over who will be writing the songs and how the album will be put together. And Daisy's own drug use, already established but increasing as things progress, adds another layer of complications. And most problematic of all, the chemistry that makes Daisy and Billy compelling co-writers and duet partners isn't just in the recording booth. Once it all comes together, the album is an undeniable smash, but a confrontation tears it all apart.

This book was optioned for a series adaptation before it was even released to shelves, and it's not hard to see why: there are vivid characters, plenty of storylines, and real drama. I was at first put off a bit by the lack of actual narrative structure (the entire book consists of snippets of interviews laced together), but the style wound up suiting the story, for me. It gives the reader the chance to get to know characters through both their own perspectives and the perspectives of others, and it keeps things moving along quickly. It's easy to devour large portions of the book in one sitting, easy to convince yourself that it won't take too long to read 10 more pages, which becomes 20, and then 50. I got so emotionally invested in the characters that even though the actual plot varied quite little from where I thought it would go, I wanted to see how it all played out.

Though it was a fantastically enjoyable book, it wasn't without flaws for me. For one thing, Daisy's slim frame, acknowledged to be at least in part owed to her addiction issues, is fetishized in a way that felt weird. And it didn't quite stick the landing...the reveal of the person behind the interviews felt inorganic, and the actual closing note also rang false. But mostly, I thought it was textured, layered, and enormously entertaining and compelling. I really loved it and would highly recommend it to all readers!

One year ago, I was reading: The Thirteenth Tale

Two years ago, I was reading: Marie Antoinette

Three years ago, I was reading: Shantaram

Four years ago, I was reading: Party Monster

Five years ago, I was reading: Reading Lolita in Tehran

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