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Book Reviews

Pete Townshend: Who I Am

By Published: January 12, 2013
References to other sources of information become increasingly frequent in Who I Am as Townshend delves into his time as a solo artist, collaborations in theatre and new media, as well as his almost accidental career as an editor for an English book publishing company. With such aforementioned content so readily accessible, Townshend has, depending on your point of view, either undermined his autobiography as a definitive work or efficiently streamlined it as a personal reminiscence filtered through his professional exercises. Certainly his reference to editing an original draft twice as long as the published work, piques curiosity and for that reason alone Who I Am may ultimately engender as much ambivalence in readers as it seems to in the author itself.

Recalling his efforts to balance his various roles of artist on his own, husband, father and businessman sound as painful as the emotional juggling act itself, though not so anguished as the recurring guilt in playing the rock star role to the hilt. It's as if Townshend knows all too well the limits of being at peace with himself and didn't pretend otherwise in writing Who I Am. That's why in the end it's worth reading, particularly between the lines, as the author repeatedly references a deeply-rooted suspicion of sexual abuse, hints at cosmic sources at the root of his creative drive and offers an account of the child pornography incident in 1999 (which is remarkably bereft of self-recrimination).

Having learned how to pick his battles, it remains little wonder this artist, at his advanced age and given the duration of his career as a musician, demonstrates virtually all the raging frustration on stage now that he did in the late 1960s. The cover graphics of Who I Am are thus perfectly appropriate, as it's bookended by a portrait of Townshend carrying a latent but unmistakable defiance in his facial expression and an action shot on the back, appropriately blurry, depicting his destruction of an electric guitar.


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