Books by Timothy White

Released: Feb. 1, 1995

Neither Brian Wilson nor the rest of the Beach Boys ever come alive in this tedious tale of surfboards, teenyboppers, and cookie-cutter surf music. White (Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley, 1983), editor-in- chief of Billboard Magazine, is long on detail and short on story as he traces the minutiae of Brian Wilson, the surf band he helped found, several generations of his family, and the Southern California beach culture. After a teaser showing Wilson leaving a high school sweetheart for a stint on the road, White returns to the Wilson family's days in the small town of Hutchinson, Kans., beginning in 1914. Only after long chapters on Brian's grandfather's move to California in 1921 and his father Murry's career as a disabled defense worker and small-business owner do the musical brothers, Brian, Carl, and Dennis, appear. Over a third of the pages have passed before the band appears as an emerging recording phenomenon. From there, the story is so tangled up in digressive background, reminders of concurrent events (such as the Watts riots and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.), and specified accounts of the day-to-day operations of the Boys and rivals like Phil Spector and Jan and Dean that no underpinning narrative can emerge to propel the book. As the man at the center of the story, Brian Wilson only threatens to come across as a musical genius constrained by being typecast as a lollipop songwriter. The post-1960s material, highlighting Wilson's decline into self-indulgence and addiction and his reemergence under the care of a quackish 24-hour-a-day psychologist, does little to show the demonic nightmares of superstardom. No one will be able to fault White on the mountains of research behind the book. If only he hadn't felt compelled to include so much of it. (32 pages photos, not seen) Read full book review >