The Lives of John Lennon

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Goldman has made a name for himself by writing scathing portraits of contemporary figures; his previous book, ELVIS, was a best-selling shocker that revealed the sexual habits of Elvis Presley. Given that track record, the multitude of fans of John Lennon were holding their breath to see what Goldman would come up with this time. THE LIVES OF JOHN LENNON is a massively detailed book. Some of its findings are merely restatements of previously documented material, while some of the more shocking revelations, such as Lennon’s alleged affair with Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein, have been rumored for years and discounted by those who knew Lennon best.

Goldman does not focus solely on Lennon; the people around him and the worlds they inhabited are examined with the eye of a chronicler (although a nasty one). Yoko Ono, Lennon’s widow, suffers the most from Goldman’s portrayal. Resentment toward her has always been strong since fans have long believed that she played a major role in the breakup of the Beatles. Her portrait in this biography may lead her to make a rebuttal, but the first shot was fired a long time ago, and Goldman has simply taken his place in line.

Lennon was a man of many faces. He could be extremely cruel, but that is definitely not the whole picture. He had a problem with drugs, but certainly that is not news; many other musicians have struggled with addictions too. Lennon was and should always be thought of as a man of music and words. Whatever torment brought him to the creative end should only enhance that accomplishment.

THE LIVES OF JOHN LENNON will be hotly debated for some time. If the book serves any useful purpose at all, it is to rekindle interest in Lennon’s musical statement, which will still ring true when this biography has long been collecting dust. THE LIVES OF JOHN LENNON will certainly not be the last word on Lennon; probably no one book could do justice to the subject. As with any creative individual, what makes him larger than life is his work.