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Will You Take Me As I Am

Joni Mitchell's Blue Period

by Michelle Mercer [Simon & Schuster - 2009]
ISBN-13: 9781416559290
ASIN: 1416559299

Hey, remember rock criticism? No, not record reviewing, which is what passes for criticism these days. I'm talking about taking an artist, looking over the artist's work, connecting the work and the artist to the larger culture, and drawing conclusions which illuminate the work, the artist, and the culture. Michelle Mercer has created the best piece of rock criticism I've seen in ages with Will You Take Me As I Am. You don't even have to be a Joni Mitchell fan to get excited by it. All that's required is intellectual curiosity and a willingness to entertain some thought-provoking ideas. Neither rockademic nor fan-girl, Mercer shows how it should be done.

-- Ed Ward, Rock and roll historian for Fresh Air with Terry Gross (NPR)

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jjrose on

I am so looking forward to this book. It will be, I'm sure reminiscent of a past "Blue" period in my own life. Thank you, Thank you. Kudows

rflynn on

I had the great fortune to read the uncorrected proof of Michelle Mercer's forthcoming book. _Will You Take Me as I Am: Joni Mitchell's Blue Period_ and I can tell you that you are in for a real treat when it comes out in April.

I read a lot of books about music and this one is really distinguished by the high quality of the writing. Mercer breaks with strict chronology that makes run-of-the-mill music criticism so uninteresting. Her discussion about "confessional" songwriting is fully informed by the literary history of confession from Augustine to Robert Lowell. There is a wonderful Joni monologue on Augustine--one of many fascinating excerpts from Mercer's original interviews.

For me, she really captures the core appeal of the records that she focuses on--_Blue_ through _Hejira_--, blending memoir and biography with criticism in useful ways. The book really took me back to my own personal connections with the music. While I like gossip as much as anyone else, this book has none of the prurient interest of Sheila Weller's book; rather, it captures the intricate essence of the music. It has a meditative quality that reminded me precisely about how I felt when I was coming of age with Joni's music. I didn't care about who her boyfriend was; I wanted to know, "How does she understand so well the way I feel?" This book goes a long way toward exploring that question, summed up in the quotation from Wallace Stevens's "The Man with the Blue Guitar" that serves as the book's epigraph:

And they said to him, "But play you must,
A tune beyond us, yet ourselves,
A tune upon the blue guitar,
Of things exactly as they are.

The book so exceeded my expectations that I couldn't put it down till I finished it.