Answering some questions

April 29, 2008

Hi, everybody…

I’m just getting the hang of how to do this…answering the questions people have asked, and then I’ll move on to new blogs.

Daniel asked me about the difference between some of the passages between the Vanity Fair excerpt and the English edition. Here’s the thing: The English have very high-barred libel laws and they had to remove some of the passages from the book. Those passages were left in the American edition and the Vanity Fair excerpt.

Terra asked me another question. (First, she paid me a compliment about the book, to which I say: “Thank you, Terra! I’m so delighted that you love the book.”)But she asked me how I felt about younger women who (my words, in reaction to the Zacharek review in the New York Times Book Review) rolled their eyes up to my Boomer-chauvinistic dedication but then went on to like the book anyway. My reaction: Hey, that’s fine. One, the dedication was a tiny bit tongue in cheek or self-parodying, an affectionate wink at the pride of us ’60s generation-ers. I did paint a bulls-eye on my head with it. Two — and I’m going to expand this to a blog later — I think the women of the ’60s generation were “the best” not because we had innately superior values (hence the “scold” she expected to get and was relieved that she didn’t get) but because we tilted windmills in our clueless, Quixote-girl way and were lucky enough to have lived to tell. The truth is: I think younger women are much smarter than we are. Maybe  they didn’t spend a lot of time doing crazy, stupid, risky things (or…maybe they did; maybe they did their own Girls Gone Wild things…), but they got to the practicalities of life – money, jobs, priorities, happiness — faster and more clear-eyed than we did. We were :”the best” because we were a lot of things, from good things (the most rebellious, given what there was to rebel against then) to bad things (the stupidest — thinking, for example, that we could be amateur dope runners in exotic places on a lark…and not get busted. Or thinking we could have romantically pathological boyfriends – Characters out of Novels — and not end up saying, a year or so later: What a jive-ass.)

So I fully expected a bit of eye rolling from a younger reviewer, and I was very pleased that, once she got past her grumbling, she liked the book for the reasons I’m proud of…and had smart points to make in crticism.

Terra, I’m delighted that you, being a woman of the ’70s, liked the book so much. I do think– I hope! — that certain experiences are universal.

Daniel, I hope I answered you questions.

Others — from what I’ve seen of the dialogue in the various chat rooms devoted to Carole’s, Joni’s and Carlyt’s (and James Taylor;’s) fans: There’s a lot of good conversation to be had.  Let’s have it!

Write me here at the blog on www.girlslikeusthebook.com and we can keep talking — about these amazing women, their glorious music,  the magical (and crazy — and, to some, over-hyped) times, the whole process of writing a book about live artists (with enormously loyal fan bases), the decisions involved in writing biography (how much is music, how much is personal?), and so forth.

Ask me questions and I will answer. And tell me about yourselves.

And thank you for your interest, even when you’re critical (and sometimes — you know who you are — VERY critical.)

Cheers and thanks,




  1. Thank you for your response! I’ve read a lot of comments on the fan msg. boards, and one question that often comes up is, why these three women? Why not (fill in the blank), or why three, not two or four?

    To me, it’s obvious: When I was in high school, 1970-’74, and during my initial college years, Carole, Carly, and Joni were the preeminent female pop singer-songwriters, period. Whether they had big hits or not, they were “on the FM radio,” and on everybody’s turntables. (Even those of us who were lucky to be listening during that golden time have forgotten what radio was like then. For a few short years, it was glorious.)

    These three women also (albeit Carole, to a lesser degree) were very much in the news in the rock press of the day, unlike, for example, Laura Nyro. She was truly in a class of her own, in my opinion, because while she, like Carole, wrote pop songs that were huge hits for others, her own albums were full of beautiful but less accessible songs and arrangements. Her singing could also be unconventionally dramatic and even strident to some ears. And she was not an easily labeled fashion/lifestyle type, nor did she become heavily involved with James Taylor.

    Aside from my other musician friends, no one knew the name Laura Nyro, even if they knew her songs, whereas, of course, they had definitely heard or read something about Carole, Carly, and Joni.

    As for some of the other female musician icons of the day such as Joan Baez, Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, Janis Joplin–to name a few–they were known as interpreters of others’ songs, not as prolific writers.

    I’m sure there are some holes in my “thesis,” but this is how I remember it.


  2. Oops–there’s supposed to be a “wink” after the JT reference! I must have accidentally used HTML code or something, so it disappeared. —grin—

  3. Hello:

    I enjoyed reading Girls Like Us but would like to point out a typographical problem. I work in publishing, so I notice these things! It seems that two different fonts were used for this book: one font for the Joni Mitchell/Carole King chapters and another for the Carly Simon sections. The Mitchell/King chapters employ an en dash with no space before and after, while in the Simon chapters, an em dash is used.

    This font change was extremely distracting. The use of the en dash in the Mitchell/King chapters made the text hard to read; there should have been a space on both sides of the dash. The Carly Simon sections, by contrast, were much more easy to read, with their longer dashes and more readable typeface.

    Also, on page 415, in reference to the song “Refuge of the Roads,” the ‘friend of spirit’ Joni was singing about was her guru Chogyam Trungpa, not her boyfriend John Guerin. You can read about Joni’s visit to Trungpa at jmdl.com or at jonimitchell.com.

    James Leahy

  4. Hi James, nice to see someone from the JMDL list here! I saw your post on the fonts there but didn’t have my copy of the book handy at the time to look at and respond. Sorry to contradict, but please have a closer look: you’ll find there are, in fact, three different fonts used, one for each woman.

    A good place to compare the Carole and Joni fonts is on pp. 206 and 208. Just fold back p. 208 to compare next to p.206 and you’ll see the difference. Carole’s font is more traditional-looking (to my eye), with rounded letters, whereas the Joni font is more angular. (Compare cap “C” and cap “G”.) I agree, the Carly font is much easier to read–and better-looking–than the other two.

    As for the en- and em-dash thing: This is something I complain about also, but unfortunately, it’s not incorrect. There are numerous fonts/typefaces now in use that barely differentiate between hyphens and en and em dashes. If you actually measure the different dashes in the Joni font, you’ll find there is a difference–an infinitesimal one, granted, but it’s there.

    I know this for a fact–I work in publishing too.

    Cheers! Terra

  5. Thanks Terra. Sheila herself wrote to me to explain that, yes indeed, there are three fonts. I checked those pages you referenced, and the difference was quite noticeable. Joni’s font does seem somewhat condensed compared with Carole’s.

    One of the publishers I work for also uses an en dash to indicate a break in thought or a digression, but they insert a thin space before and after the dash, making the break more noticeable and easier to read. It also makes it possible to use the en dash, with no spaces, to separate compounds like ‘post-World War Two.’

    Sometimes I wish I didn’t notice these things when I’m trying to read for pleasure!

    Cheers, Jim

  6. I loved reading this book. I am a big fan of these three women.

    BTW, I just want to mention one correction though.

    On page 452, in the footnote, is written, about Diane Keaton and Mick Jagger, “…Keaton is so unbalanced, she called him ‘Mike’ instead of Mick all night.”

    Well – the truth is that Jagger’s first name is really MIKE. Yes, it’s true. All of his friends from way back, know Jagger as MIKE; then later on, his manager wanted to change his stage name to “Mick”.
    But old friends, such as John Lennon, still would call Jagger by his name “Mike”.

    So, if Keaton used the name ‘Mike’, then she knew that it really is Jagger’s first name. I don’t think it was a sign of nervousness on Keaton’s part at all.

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