Book review: The John Lennon Letters

Sunday, 6 January 2013 - 12:25pm IST | Agency: DNA
The John Lennon Letters shows a side to Lennon that few have seen before and it makes for a great gift.

Book: The John Lennon Letters
Edited by Hunter Davis
Publisher: Orion Publishing Group
Pages: 392
Price: Rs1,350

When Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker saw The John Lennon Letters, he complained that Hunter Davies had effectively put together a “posh version of a Sotheby’s catalogue.” He also was not amused by the fact that the book’s release had been timed to coincide with the Beatles’s fiftieth anniversary. Why is 50 so exotic, wailed the 49-year-old Cocker. But there was more to Cocker’s dislike. What upset Cocker most about The John Lennon Letters was that Davies’s book exoticised Lennon’s everyday jottings and this, according to Cocker, signals something either unimaginative about our post-Beatles generation or distastefully commercial, or both. For instance, how do Lennon’s laundry lists qualify as letters, Cocker asked. It’s easy to imagine many devout Beatles fans nodding in enthusiastic agreement to Cocker’s objections —because of course, they rather than Davies are the ones who know how to put together a collection of Lennon’s writings — so here’s an open letter addressing these concerns.   

Dear Jarvis Cocker,
Please suck a lemon when you turn 50 and stop whining about it after. The John Lennon Letters is not about you, a number or an anniversary. If you want to know how the Fab Four shook the world, switch on your hearing aid, remove your dentures and listen to Abbey Road all over again.

If you were done poring over laundry lists that you obviously have no interest in, you could have turned to page 26 for love, page 83 for ambition, page 53 for deceit and page 147 for allegiance. If you were done thumping your chest about how every fan and collector had capitalised on Lennon’s letters, you may have picked up the story about how two fans turned back up vocalists on Across The Universe, not to mention the kitschy postcard of Shiva, one of the many Hindu gods, that Lennon chose to mail Ringo when he was in India. That’s a score for Jai Guru Dev.

The world knows that the Fab Four were a group of ordinary kids from Liverpool. We idolise our music heroes because they gave us songs that are alive and relevant three decades on. The John Lennon Letters shows a side to Lennon that few have seen before and you’re right, it does make for a great gift (all of you who need to get someone a late Christmas present, this one’s a winner). For those of you who like Cocker feel that this is just an attempt at cashing in on the Beatles’s enduring popularity, go learn the moonwalk and invade Jackson’s stage somewhere in outer space while the rest of us savour the wiggles and words that endeared Lennon to his fans, family and friends.




Jump to comments

RELATED