Liz Phair Reviews Dean Wareham’s Black Postcards: A Rock & Roll Romance For The NY Times

A couple weeks ago, inspired by a discussion of Dean & Britta’s “You Turn My Head Around” video, one ‘Gummer was talking about Dean Wareham’s literary bent. There are plenty of examples, but the thing that came up was one of those “What Are You Currently Reading?” blurbs, which Wareham (or a publicist) had written about Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. It’s showed up in a couple paper magazines over the years. At that time, we had no idea he was working on a memoir about the music he was making in the ’80s and ’90s, dramatically titled Black Postcards: A Rock & Roll Romance. But he was. In this Sunday’s NY Times Liz Phair weighs in on what sounds like a really interesting read. She begins (via NY Times):

Freddie Mercury once said, “I want it all and I want it now.” This appetite might aptly be called the rock ‘n’ roll disease, and Dean Wareham seems to have caught it. Or is in recovery. Or is somewhere along the road. Part confessional, part unsentimental career diary, Wareham’s Black Postcards: A Rock & Roll Romance reads like good courtroom testimony: to the point, but peppered with juicy and unsolicited asides. Dominick Dunne would make sure his seat was saved before excusing himself to use the restroom.

Then she talks about that juiciness…


He portrays himself as a surprisingly unsympathetic character. He visits a prostitute. He makes people angry. He follows girls home after the show. He snorts coke. No apologies are made because this is, after all, a rock ‘n’ roll autobiography. Late nights, a lot of drugs, a little infidelity (well, maybe not just a little, but I won’t give away the ending) — that’s par for the course, right? His honesty is challenging and humbling. Yet, for an egghead (Wareham is a graduate of both the Dalton School, the progressive and prestigious Upper East Side preparatory academy, and Harvard) with an elective reading list to rival Art Garfunkel’s (Thomas Mann, Mark Twain, André Malraux, Nietzsche, to name a few), he seems perfectly happy to partake in whatever recreational opportunities come his way, with enviable disregard for the consequences. Guilty? Not guilty? What are we as a jury to think?

On top of a hilarious mention of Shimmy Disc dude Mark Kramer, Galaxie 500 in-band issues, a moving bit about Wareham and his son, and etc., she has an interesting insight regarding Dean’s prose style.

…But his supreme interest is clearly and purely music. It is the scaffold on which he hangs most of the feelings and fragments included in the book. Even his writing style has a rhythm to it: passages move rapidly back and forth between incident and impression, creating a kind of (I’m not kidding) rock ‘n’ roll. If the writing suffers from a tone of detachment throughout, the author is well aware of it. In fact, the long journey to inhabit the present is the book’s crowning sentiment.

So, two things we’ve taken away from this review: 1) We really want to read Black Postcards and 2) Though Phair’s last couple of albums have really sucked, maybe she’s found a second calling. Read the rest here. Top job, Liz. Definitely more refreshing than another Michiko Kakutani piece.