Because the Lennon vs. McCartney question is a debate (and a fallacy) that apparently will never die, I am delighted to see that the new McCartney biography by Peter Ames Carlin, Paul McCartney: A Life, apparently spends a lot of time once again defending Paul's legacy from those who would continue, blindly, to see him as the lameass of the band and to deify a conveniently deceased John. But I am even more delighted to see what else this largely positive A.V. Club review has to say, which is that the book seems not to go as far in the self-promotion direction as Paul himself has veered in recent years. In fact, the review makes the book sound quite balanced and well done overall. I think that I'm going to have to read it.
The best book I've read about Paul is probably Many Years from Now, which pubbed in the '90s. Though technically written by Barry Miles, most of the book is direct quotes from extensive interviews with Paul. This is both cool and lame. Cool, because you're basically reading Paul's own story direct from him. Lame, because Paul often comes off as ridiculously defensive about his career and his legacy, and ends up exaggerating his own accomplishments and exacerbating all those stories about his huge ego. I understand Paul's defensiveness to an extent, but it comes off as cranky much of the time. The book is still worth a read, but be warned about Paul's motives, is all. I'm just glad there's another good biography out there to round the picture out a bit more.
I'm thinking about all of this anew, as I've recently started rereading Ray Coleman's Lennon, which I think I first read in high school. I recently picked up a used mass market copy for a dollar, so why not? Lennon has been widely considered the best John biography out there for a long time, but reading it is annoying me, because it's so sycophantic that even a fangirl like me wants to throw up in her mouth a little. The basic storyline so far is that John gets drunk and beats people up and stuff, but deep down he's a big ol' sweetie! As if the author is afraid of readers hearing anything negative about the guy. (Secondarily, I'm also a bit turned off at Coleman's obvious disgust at rumors that John might have had a fling with Brian Epstein. I'm not saying the rumors are true-- I kind of doubt that they are-- but Coleman protests so much, and goes so out of his way to say what a HETEROSEXUAL guy John was, that it's rather too revealing of his own homophobia. Which is just gross, and is making me kind of hate the author.) But the worst offenses are toward Paul McCartney, who is only mentioned in order for Coleman to sneer at his so-called primness and downplay the intensity of the artistic partnership the two had. If you had only this book to go on, you'd assume that Paul was just some guy John played in some band with for a little while. You know, no big deal. So it's books like this that make Paul feel he HAS to defend himself.
Last year, Phil Norman-- the author of Shout!, a book that I still feel is the best Beatles biography I've read, even though a lot of people consider Norman hopelessly biased in John's direction (not without reason)-- published a new biography of John that's out in paperback this fall: John Lennon: The Life. (Note that Paul's new bio is just A Life. John's is THE Life. Hee.) I haven't read this one yet. In the mainstream press it seems to have been very well received, but among Beatle people there was a lot of vitriol about how this was yet another offering to Saint John the Lennon. I can't imagine Norman's book being worse in this way than Coleman's, though, so I've decided to read this one as well. (Maybe I'll read Norman's book and Carlin's book side by side to compare how they approach their subjects.) I've also heard that Norman's book picks up some of the recent allegations raised by Julia Baird, John's half-sister, about some hidden family secrets or something. Baird has a book out, too, whose title I forget, but which I've been hesitant to read just because, even if true, the whole thing sounds a little too sordid, a little too Maury Povich for my tastes. (Spoiler alert: Aunt Mimi doesn't come off well.)
But my larger point is: Isn't this John vs. Paul thing in the book business just nuts? It makes me glad not to be famous and not to have any legacy really worth protecting. Because the whole things would just exhaust me.