Absent a fiduciary relationship dictating to the contrary, no one has an obligation to favorably review the written work of someone they like and admire. The only duty of a nonobligated reviewer is to tell his own truth; here is mine.
To date, the long awaited Mitch Winehouse volume, Amy, My Daughter is clearly the finest written offering on the life and times of Amy Jade Winehouse.
The challenge faced by reviewers bearing warm feelings about the subject matter of AMD will be to remain focused on the style of the book and leave alone their personal views about AJW. That task will not be mastered by me; it is simply not possible for me to divorce my own feelings regarding AJW from anything I write about subjects related to her. I always like to review good books, and I never like to review the lives of the people who write them. Consider my comments herein with that in mind.
I often refer to AJW’s journey as a “magnificent adventure.” AMD gives readers an involved insider’s view of that trek, and does so in an interesting, engaging and powerful manner. The book is an entertaining pageturner and there are truly no boring parts. Constructed, in part, from event contemporaneous diary entries, the story is told in a straightforward style that is super easy to follow and encourages folks to absorb the book in one long read.
AMD paints the accurate picture of a loving and ordinary parent engaged in a good faith war to save his beloved child. The author admits his lack of knowledge in some relevant matters and the most sophisticated readers should remind themselves that, notwithstanding any contrary historical notions, ignorance is not a sin. The inevitable “why didn’t he?” questions raised by readers are largely based in cocksure arrogance and/or the questioners’ own ignorance. The simple fact is that no parent “knows the things they don’t know” during their engagement in an AMD-style crisis; most such parents become gropers and blindly rely on the “expert” voices they are offered. Such reliance precludes third-party judgements of failure and exempts the actors from all but the guilt they routinely and wrongfully foist on themselves.
The major import of AMD, to knowledgeable fans of the megastar, is to be found in confirmation and not in revelation. Experienced Amyphiles can, in my view, rely absolutely on the truth of MW’s account; many of those truths were largely long known to seasoned fans and having them confirmed by a close participant is valuable, but AMD is revelatory of old truths more than expository of new secrets. Newcomers to the subject will find the generously offered details fully satisfying.
Amyites looking for the all encompassing and definitive biography of AJW will have to wait for skilled historians to brew and bake a bit longer. AMD simply offers what I deem to be the true and accurate telling of the author’s observations and feelings about the events he experienced as the public and private drama of his daughter’s terminal disease engulfed him.
The author’s wit and charm are compelling inside of AMD and are likely to soften some folks’ perceptions of him; the sympathy you want to feel for him may flow freely. Except for the general circumstance of his saga, he is not likely to make you cry in his telling, but you may feel the pain of his experiences in a way that you have not before.
The volume is skillfully compiled to interest a mainstream audience. That demo is critical to helping the Amyites preserve the legend and promote the philanthropic legacy. The AJW aficionados simply have to accept that most early books, regardless of who writes them, are going to be rather “basic” in nature. The advanced analytical writings can come as interest in the subject increases; and, it will.
Though I kind of like the full expression of feelings and opinions, I also know that it is not necessary for a writer to say everything he feels and thinks about the real life antagonists in his work. Seasoned bashers of BFC will applaud MW’s verbally harsh treatment of the sick manchild that the equally ill AJW loved much. That AJW was fully energized with the decency gene and her cohort was imbued with likkle but pure and demented evil will always make the trashing of the latter acceptable to the vast majority of those who love her, but I find even the most justifiable after-action hate to be harmful to its bearers and avoid expressing it; even when I feel it beyond measure.
If AMD was a work of fiction, I would note that the BFC character should have been eliminated from the story – by any means necessary – long prior to his ever having established a dominant position in the tale. In real life, public post-outcome bashing is easy to advise against – and hard to rise above – but its vent value is, to me, unseemly and the currency of its truth is outweighed thereby. When a nonfiction villain is indeed fully illustrated to be a “lowlife scumbag,” his conduct speaks to that fact and even the most involved storyteller need not be redundant in restating the obvious. I well know that my view in this matter is that of a tiny minority, and I cite it merely as a small point in the AMD narrative that might cause a slight sympathy-losing chill among some readers.
[DISCLAIMER: I am not so straightlaced that I did not laugh heartily upon entering the search term "lowlife scumbag" and getting a page-one GOOG return of a picture of BFC.]
AMD offers a bit of insight into some minor details of AJW’s business dealings. Folks who have grown tired of her being falsely portrayed as a brainless dunce that knew/cared nothing about her business should be somewhat satisfied. Future biographers are given a good resource of names that will prove useful in their efforts to flesh out the totality of AJW as a real human being that is exponentially more than just a disease victim.
It is also interesting to have revealed some details regarding the insiders’ recognition of the serious war that was being waged against AJW by a corrupt and vile media. While fightback efforts were never really successful, fans will at least learn that the hometeam was far from oblivious to the evil works of the demoralizing defamation machine.
As a strident and militant warrior in the ongoing battle against the deadly dogma of “disease chauvinism,” I found only a slight and grossly understated bone toss at page 206 of AMD, where the author meekly notes:
“… I also began to realize that, for most people, addiction is an illness, an illness that needs treatment, just like any other. …”
In my view, that mostly true but overly reticent observation represents a lost opportunity for a widely respected person to further spread the truth that has been recognized by the USA Government, via the National Institutes of Health and National Institute on Drug Abuse:
Substance addiction is a terminal brain disease, the components of which obviate the patient’s ability to adequately exercise freewill choice.
Story and Video Re: NIH/NIDA http://tinyurl.com/7u6kknk
Until that scientific fact becomes the prevailing medical paradigm – and it will – every parent on the planet will remain vulnerable to the same heartbreak now being suffered by AMD‘s author. The corrupt dogma of disease chauvinism rends the credibility destroying and dehumanizing stigmatization that heaps shame and embarrassment on the sick and often precludes, hinders, or delays their successful treatment. Though understandable and completely expected, the author’s failure to forcefully attack the anti-science gangs in the context of the AJW story was personally disappointing, but does not harm either the biographical or entertainment value of AMD.
Picture lovers will be pleased with the selected offerings. Some of the photos are “new,” some are not. Hopefully, a future pictorial volume will incorporate all of the hidden treasures not shared this time out.
The inclusion in the book of what seems to be the full text of AJW’s early Sylvia Young entrance essay is a super nice touch and makes the popular pull-quotes even more powerful. Personal notes and greeting cards from AJW also add charm and tears to the mix.
Is AMD a strong enough vehicle from which to devise a major film? Absolutely, but, perhaps, it should be contemplated to be crafted as a story about MW’s travails in the saga and not as a straight-up AJW biopic. That formula might be slightly more palatable to the adamantly “no movies” crowd.
All things considered, it is very difficult to find any real fault with AMD. Fans of AJW will like it a lot and many new fans will be born among those coming to the subject for the first time. That we all desperately wish this book never had to be written is a given; that every fan and every parent read it is a necessity spawned by the most hurtful circumstance that many of us have ever experienced.
All author proceeds are pledged to the Amy Winehouse Foundation.