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The Age of Bowie by Paul Morley

The Age of Bowie by Paul Morley
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When David Bowie died in January this year, the rock journalist Paul Morley decided to turn down all requests for comment pieces on the singer and to write a book about him instead. As he put it: “It was the only way I could begin to say what I wanted.” The result, written in just ten weeks, is a moving “paean” that “gets to the heart” of its subject’s appeal, said Lynsey Hanley in The Guardian. Any number of people could have written a straightforward tribute, but Morley’s thesis, developed over 496 pages of “clearly rushed” but “engaging” writing, is that “Bowie will stay alive, and will continue to keep changing”, for as long as his music is listened to. 

The Age of Bowie is a perceptive but “maddening” book, said Will Hodgkinson in The Times. Blending biography, pop cultural analysis and “conjecture on Bowie’s state of mind”, it is undoubtedly informed by a “deep understanding” of Bowie’s music: the sections on the early 1970s, from the “existential folkie” of Hunky Dory to the “apocalyptic monster” of Diamond Dogs, are especially good. And there are revealing details – such as the fact that, when the young Bowie told his mother that he planned to be a pop star, she at once arranged for him to become an electrician’s mate. How “frustrating”, then, that so much of the writing is verbose and pretentious. The Age of Bowie reads like the “shambolic product of an almighty first-year cultural studies essay crisis”, said Jasper Rees in The Spectator. Though Morley’s passion for Bowie is beyond doubt, his prose is a “motorway pile-up” of “dangling participles”, “knee-jerk alliteration” and “overburdened prepositions”. How can it be that a “genius” whose music is so inspiring has provoked writing so “bereft of rhythm and style and editorial oversight”?