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SINGING LESSONS by Judy Collins

SINGING LESSONS

By Judy Collins

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-671-00397-6
Publisher: Pocket

This follow-up to Trust Your Heart (1987), the continuing autobiography of singer and songwriter Collins, is sometimes poignant but poorly constructed. The framing device for this account is the 1992 suicide of Collins’s son Clark, whose struggles with drug abuse and alcoholism were detailed in the earlier book (along with depictions of Collins’s own problems in that regard). However, rather than telling her story from this event forward, she instead backtracks to her childhood and adolescence in Colorado and California, her father’s alcoholism, and her failed first marriage. The treatment of her father’s drinking renders him bizarrely and unevenly as a character in her narrative: One moment he’s a much-loved inspiration, and the next minute, without transition or segue, he’s a raging drunk. Perhaps this is what life with him was like, but the situation begs for further explanation. There are between-chapter meditations from Collins’s journal on the death of her son, but only in the post-suicide chapters (far into the story) do we find any narrative cohesion at all. Sadly enough, it is really the journal excerpts that provide the strongest material here. Collins might have done better to have edited her journal into a text rather than try to interpolate an autobiography in the spaces between. Too much of this text is merely a combination of name-dropping (from her romantic liaisons with Stephen Stills and Stacy Keach to her friendship with Bill and Hillary Clinton) and overwritten prose, characterized by an apparent need to modify every noun with an adjective and every adjective with an adverb.