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Starting with the suit he dons to work every day, the parallel is never ignored.

Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink by Elvis Costello

The novel reads more like a letter to his father, though not one of love, more confused admiration and unexpressed feelings. Costello nearly revisits every sly mention of an event and its consequences. He once describes a cellphone as a pocket oracle, and later notes his first run-in with Alice Cooper is sans snakes.

Unfaithful Music Disappearing Ink

Apologies are just as often wielded as humor, with Costello addressing his racist remarks made more than 30 years ago after a gig and his not-so-spectacular, equally confusing debut on Saturday Night Live. His life is deeply intertwined with the music with which he deems so unfaithful.

In one part he mentions being unable to see his Nana when she died, attributing it to his father, and then music. He said my place was on the stage. I had a show to play. Costello started with a variety of small bands whose members fluctuated with the rising and falling music opportunity in England.

It was a confusing existence, set off with sleeping on floors with rats and losing gigs.

BOOK REVIEW: "Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink" by Elvis Costello

It also details his rise to fame, with The Attractions conquering both England and then its first brushes with America. More importantly, Costello accounts his path toward finding his music identity—the identity hidden behind a slim figure counteracted with oversized, thick-rimmed glasses.

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With vanishingly rare exceptions, even lyrics by talented songwriters lose much of their power when unaccompanied by music. What really makes this memoir more of a slog than a life like this should produce is its bewildering approach to time travel.

But too often, Costello sacrifices precision and deep diving for skating a curvy line through his memories, like an uncle at a family reunion. Even when the results are less than great, the energy and enthusiasm never seems to waver. Apart from a close-up view of his personal life, the book takes us on quite a journey through early UK and USA tours with the Attractions, across an America broken city by city with a mixture of hard work and just plain refusal to not be liked.

But then I suppose that was also what he was hoping to find by writing it. Glyn Johns — Sound Man.


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