For almost 80 years, Kirkus Reviews has served as the industry bible for bookstore buyers, librarians, and ordinary readers alike. Now Popdose joins the Kirkus Book Bloggers Network to explore the best — and sometimes the worst — in pop-culture and celebrity books.

This week, the art of the memoir meets the unreliable narrator…

THE BILLY BOB TAPESI’ve got a friend who swears that his father wrote “Who’ll Stop the Rain?” for Creedence Clearwater Revival. Or rather, he wrote it for the Kingston Trio, in 1961, and when they passed on it, the song kicked around the music biz for years before making its way into the pirating hands of John Fogerty. It sounds crazy, he admits, but he swears it’s true.

For the record, I don’t believe a word. It simply strays too far from the established history to be credible. But I love to hear him tell the story nonetheless. It’s a splendid example of the elaborate personal mythologies that individuals and families can weave around themselves. Human beings are natural-born embellishers. We’re hard-wired to take events and spin them into stories. It’s not lying, exactly — more like revising. Improving on reality, editing out the boring bits and highlighting the funny, sad, exciting parts. And when you start with events of intrinsic interest, the resulting fabulisms can be spectacular.

Now, Billy Bob Thornton is, to put it mildly, an interesting guy. He’s your genuine polymath — actor, screenwriter, director, musician — whose achievements are matched by his eccentricities. Dyslexia, OCD and mysophobia, a string of ex-wives, episodes of insomnia and anorexia, the blood fetish, the morbid fears — of antique furniture, of silverware, of Benjamin Disraeli’s hair. Imagine the stories that this guy could tell, late at night, after he’s had a couple of drinks!

Or stop imagining and pick up The Billy Bob Tapes: A Cave Full of Ghosts, the new oral autobiography assembled by Thornton and his collaborator, noted man of letters and professional Texan Kinky Friedman, from hours of rambling recorded conversation.

 

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