Thursday, October 6, 2016

Boys in the Trees by Carly Simon

Posted by Rebecca Brendel

Reviewed by: Jim Patrick

What I Read: Boys in the Trees: A Memoir by Carly Simon

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: Now 70 years old, singer Carly Simon reflects on the first half of her life in Boys in the Trees: A Memoir.  The book is so brave and revealing that perhaps another Carly Simon song title would have been more fitting: We Have No Secrets.  

Thanks to an astonishing memory for details—aided by a lifetime of diary writing—Simon recounts incidents from her childhood up to the end of her marriage to singer James Taylor in 1981.  Far from her image as a spoiled rich girl—her father was the Simon of Simon and Schuster publishing—Carly Simon’s youth was scarred by her parents’ unhappy marriage and her own poor self-image.  As a pre-teen, Simon was physically molested by a family acquaintance.  She suffered for years with a stuttering impediment, and she has been treated for depression throughout her life.

Her success as a singer, originally as a duo with sister Lucy, seems to have taken Carly by surprise, and given her lifelong stage fright, Simon’s fame was a mixed blessing.  Her stardom did bring her in contact with others in the entertainment industry, and much of the book details romantic encounters with familiar icons such as Warren Beatty, Kris Kristofferson, Mick Jagger, and Cat Stevens.  And, yes, the mystery inspiration of Simon’s “You’re So Vain” is at least partially answered: Warren Beatty inspired one of the verses.  The latter part of the book details the decade-long marriage to James Taylor, a brilliant musician who was plagued by a heroin addiction throughout his years with Carly Simon.

What I Thought: Since this is not a “breezy” show business memoir, it does not always make for easy reading.  Carly Simon shares painful and unflattering episodes from her life, along with personal and professional joys and successes.  There were times when I would have preferred fewer intimate details (e.g. the description of her 1981 onstage panic attack in Pittsburgh), but overall I came away admiring Simon’s honesty and perseverance.  As a baby boomer who closely followed the music of Carly Simon and James Taylor at the height of their popularity, I would have liked more behind the scenes accounts of that musical era.  Although that was not the primary focus of Simon’s book, I did enjoy the musical anecdotes that were included.  And I look forward to reading the sequel.  

Readalikes: Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon—and the Journey of a Generation by Sheila Weller; Sweet Dreams and Flying Machines: The Life and Music of James Taylor by Mark Ribowsky

Or look this book up on NoveList!