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A Dream About Lightning Bugs: A Life of Music and Cheap Lessons

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Ben Folds is a celebrated American singer-songwriter, beloved for songs such as "Brick," "You Don't Know Me," "Rockin' the Suburbs," and "The Luckiest," and is the former frontman of the alternative rock band Ben Folds Five. But Folds will be the first to tell you he's an unconventional icon, more normcore than hardcore. Now, in his first book, Folds looks back at his life Ben Folds is a celebrated American singer-songwriter, beloved for songs such as "Brick," "You Don't Know Me," "Rockin' the Suburbs," and "The Luckiest," and is the former frontman of the alternative rock band Ben Folds Five. But Folds will be the first to tell you he's an unconventional icon, more normcore than hardcore. Now, in his first book, Folds looks back at his life so far in a charming and wise chronicle of his artistic coming of age, infused with the wry observations of a natural storyteller. In the title chapter, "A Dream About Lightning Bugs," Folds recalls his earliest childhood dream--and realizes how much it influenced his understanding of what it means to be an artist. In "Measure Twice, Cut Once" he learns to resist the urge to skip steps during the creative process. In "Hall Pass" he recounts his 1970s North Carolina working-class childhood, and in "Cheap Lessons" he returns to the painful life lessons he learned the hard way--but that luckily didn't kill him. In his inimitable voice, both relatable and thought-provoking, Folds digs deep into the life experiences that shaped him, imparting hard-earned wisdom about both art and life. Collectively, these stories embody the message Folds has been singing about for years: Smile like you've got nothing to prove, because it hurts to grow up, and life flies by in seconds.


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Ben Folds is a celebrated American singer-songwriter, beloved for songs such as "Brick," "You Don't Know Me," "Rockin' the Suburbs," and "The Luckiest," and is the former frontman of the alternative rock band Ben Folds Five. But Folds will be the first to tell you he's an unconventional icon, more normcore than hardcore. Now, in his first book, Folds looks back at his life Ben Folds is a celebrated American singer-songwriter, beloved for songs such as "Brick," "You Don't Know Me," "Rockin' the Suburbs," and "The Luckiest," and is the former frontman of the alternative rock band Ben Folds Five. But Folds will be the first to tell you he's an unconventional icon, more normcore than hardcore. Now, in his first book, Folds looks back at his life so far in a charming and wise chronicle of his artistic coming of age, infused with the wry observations of a natural storyteller. In the title chapter, "A Dream About Lightning Bugs," Folds recalls his earliest childhood dream--and realizes how much it influenced his understanding of what it means to be an artist. In "Measure Twice, Cut Once" he learns to resist the urge to skip steps during the creative process. In "Hall Pass" he recounts his 1970s North Carolina working-class childhood, and in "Cheap Lessons" he returns to the painful life lessons he learned the hard way--but that luckily didn't kill him. In his inimitable voice, both relatable and thought-provoking, Folds digs deep into the life experiences that shaped him, imparting hard-earned wisdom about both art and life. Collectively, these stories embody the message Folds has been singing about for years: Smile like you've got nothing to prove, because it hurts to grow up, and life flies by in seconds.

30 review for A Dream About Lightning Bugs: A Life of Music and Cheap Lessons

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kristy

    Ben Folds--as you probably know if you're interested in his autobiography/memoir--is a singer-songwriter who became popular in the 1990s as part of the band Ben Folds Five. He's well-known for his piano skills, vocals, and songwriting. He's also had a somewhat tumultuous personal life, with multiple marriages that ended in divorce. This memoir covers his childhood and his fame with Ben Folds Five and his solo career, up until the relative present. "This is a book about what I know. Or what I Ben Folds--as you probably know if you're interested in his autobiography/memoir--is a singer-songwriter who became popular in the 1990s as part of the band Ben Folds Five. He's well-known for his piano skills, vocals, and songwriting. He's also had a somewhat tumultuous personal life, with multiple marriages that ended in divorce. This memoir covers his childhood and his fame with Ben Folds Five and his solo career, up until the relative present. "This is a book about what I know. Or what I think I know. It's about music and how it has framed and informed my life and vice versa. About the stumbles, falls, and other brilliant strokes of luck that brought me here." I discovered Ben Folds Five in college via my roommate/best friend, and I've been a fan ever since. I was excited to read this, but I've gotta admit: it was a slog. I basically forced myself to finish. I've always sort of thought of Ben Folds as a bit arrogant, so that may have clouded some of my reading of this autobiography. It certainly didn't help dissuade me of that opinion. For me, the best parts were when Folds was talking naturally about his life and story. His childhood was interesting and it was really no surprise that he was a musically obsessed, somewhat irreverent kid. It was intriguing to see the various paths that led him to Ben Folds Five and stardom. I did not enjoy--at all--the part where he felt the need to impart forced, preachy lessons about life and music. Maybe if I was more of a music person (as in, I played it versus listened to it) the music lessons would have been of interest. It felt like an editor said, "Ben, every few chapters you have to make sure the reader learns something." And he diligently and forcefully made sure we did. But the point of the book seemed to be that he was a screw up, who got where he was halfway by accident, so the whole lessons thing seemed awfully preachy and fake. The better pieces were funny anecdotes--Folds playing as a one-man polka band and winding up doing a private gig for an elderly couple, where the husband had a wooden leg. Folds meeting a then-unknown Keith Urban. How he met Robert and Darren of Ben Folds Five. I was disappointed how much he skipped over as he became a more famous musician. We get a lot about his childhood, his various tries at college, and his musical attempts up until Ben Folds Five. He does talk about the formation of Ben Folds Five and how it felt to suddenly become so famous. But then, so much of the detail dwindles. He alludes to how the band might have had some tension, but the actual breakup, via email, gets a few sentences. Even his many marriages and his associated emotional turmoil gets glossed over quite a bit. So, for me, I was left wishing for more with this one. It's a good quick brush-over of Ben Folds' life. There are some cheesy, slightly pompous "life lessons" inserted. You get a few funny stories among all this and the backstory behind a few songs: that, to me, was the good stuff. Otherwise, it was a bit of a drag, and I didn't finish really knowing much more about the real Ben Folds than I did when I came in. Rather disappointing. 2.5 stars. I received a copy of this book from Random House-Ballantine and Netgalley in return for an honest review. Blog ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram ~ PaperBackSwap ~ Smashbomb

  2. 5 out of 5

    Roger Bailey

    Having been a fan of Folds for over two decades I wasn't sure what to expect from this. Folds has at various points in his life been an open book and others not so much. He can also write joke songs while playing with an orchestra. What we end up in the book is mostly a straight forward, serious book. His wit is there, but he really hits on what's important to him. He goes into music theory without getting overly technical. He talks about some low points in his life (if you're looking for sex an Having been a fan of Folds for over two decades I wasn't sure what to expect from this. Folds has at various points in his life been an open book and others not so much. He can also write joke songs while playing with an orchestra. What we end up in the book is mostly a straight forward, serious book. His wit is there, but he really hits on what's important to him. He goes into music theory without getting overly technical. He talks about some low points in his life (if you're looking for sex and drugs you won't find much here). He admits when he was wrong and isn't afraid to share his insecurities. While compared to a lot of musician biographies this one is pretty tame, it's the heart that comes through here. You have someone who was passionate about their music but also kept their moral code in place. It's been a while since I've read a biography I didn't want to end.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Margot Tennenbaum

    Folds knocks it out of the park. Who knew he was as good a book writer as he is a songwriter? Cheap lessons have never been so resonant - or so funny.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. SPoilers!!!!!!!! I love Ben Folds. Ben is a truly gifted songwriter, but book author, not so much. This is the most boring rock and roll memoir I’ve ever read. Nothing really happens. Wait that’s not true. Lots of incredible and big things happen, Unfortunate, Ben just just know how to get into it. The birth of his twins which were in danger was summarized in a sentence. Really!!!??? A fourth wife is never mentioned by Name...she’s there and then she’s gone in a few pages! The band breaks up ove SPoilers!!!!!!!! I love Ben Folds. Ben is a truly gifted songwriter, but book author, not so much. This is the most boring rock and roll memoir I’ve ever read. Nothing really happens. Wait that’s not true. Lots of incredible and big things happen, Unfortunate, Ben just just know how to get into it. The birth of his twins which were in danger was summarized in a sentence. Really!!!??? A fourth wife is never mentioned by Name...she’s there and then she’s gone in a few pages! The band breaks up over e-mail in a matter of minutes and it’s like...oh well. Seriously!? You never really feel like your gaining anything from him. He’s starts off earnest enough with a small family history, but ultimately I don’t feel like I’ve learned anything new about his life here in this book. It comes across like someone made him an offer to write s book and he made himself do it. This does not read like HE wanted to write this book or maybe he did, but got a quick lesson in how incredibly hard that is.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Cami

    First, I'll tell you to listen to this, not read it. Ben Folds memoir is vulnerable and humble. He isn't afraid to take us deep into his experience and what he thought of it all. I loved every bit of it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Buford

    As a lover of music and books, I surprisingly rarely enjoy reading about musicians’ lives. Ben Folds as a songwriter and now book writer is an exception to this rule. His memoir chronicling his childhood through his impressively diverse music career is incredibly poignant and poetic like his lyrics. However, his songs that can shift seamlessly from the beautiful ballad to the profane and irreverent jokes also match his chapters, which capture the same tone. I thought I knew a lot about Folds fro As a lover of music and books, I surprisingly rarely enjoy reading about musicians’ lives. Ben Folds as a songwriter and now book writer is an exception to this rule. His memoir chronicling his childhood through his impressively diverse music career is incredibly poignant and poetic like his lyrics. However, his songs that can shift seamlessly from the beautiful ballad to the profane and irreverent jokes also match his chapters, which capture the same tone. I thought I knew a lot about Folds from his open and honest lyrics where he “poured his heart out,” but apparently there was so much more to learn about this fascinating man! It’s been a great way to revisit his catalog of music through the decades as I made my way through his life in these pages. I just wish I could read more!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Robert Starr

    I enjoyed this book and found myself looking forward to listening to more of it. Folds writes and narrates in a simplistic tone, with his southern drawl and slight emphases adding just enough character to keep things interesting. What I realized is that, over the course of his career, Ben Folds has done quite a lot, frequently reinventing himself while trying to stay true to what his fans were looking for. His memoir fits into this narrative as it's perhaps not what we're accustomed to when we th I enjoyed this book and found myself looking forward to listening to more of it. Folds writes and narrates in a simplistic tone, with his southern drawl and slight emphases adding just enough character to keep things interesting. What I realized is that, over the course of his career, Ben Folds has done quite a lot, frequently reinventing himself while trying to stay true to what his fans were looking for. His memoir fits into this narrative as it's perhaps not what we're accustomed to when we think of Folds, yet the humor and attitude are consistent with his music and it's nice to hear the story behind many of his songs. That being said, there are some major omissions here. Perhaps his work with yMusic was a bit too fresh in his mind for him to offer any genuine insight (though, I will say that the show I saw him perform with them was among the best live performances I've ever seen), but what of the album he made with Nick Hornby? What were the specifics surrounding his writing One Down (and, for that matter, how do you write 3.6 songs?)? What of his work with Amanda Palmer (who pops in to narrate a short passage in the audiobook)? Even with these omissions, the book doesn't have a whole lot of fat. It's full of fun stories, in addition to the cheap lessons and earnest appraisal of his work, and does, I think, provide insight into the Ben Folds sound. I probably wouldn't recommend this to non-fans, but for those who have kept up with his career, it's definitely worth a listen (or, I suppose, a read, if that's your preference).

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jenni Zintel

    Due to a shipping problem with my long pre-ordered book (bookstore's fault, not Ben's or the publisher's), I resorted to checking out the audio copy on the local library's app. Thank God I did! Ben read it himself, and his imitation of his father alone made it good choice. He also included musical notes when appropriate,which is super helpful for people like me who like the music but don't know more than the most basic music terminology. I admittedly am a rabid Ben Folds fan, and as such probably Due to a shipping problem with my long pre-ordered book (bookstore's fault, not Ben's or the publisher's), I resorted to checking out the audio copy on the local library's app. Thank God I did! Ben read it himself, and his imitation of his father alone made it good choice. He also included musical notes when appropriate,which is super helpful for people like me who like the music but don't know more than the most basic music terminology. I admittedly am a rabid Ben Folds fan, and as such probably enjoyed this more than the average reader might. Even knowing that, I intend to buy a copy for my husband's retired jazz-musician grandpa... Or at least read him excerpts about Ben's time at music school for jazz percussion. And look out, Secret Santa matches this year! I truly think there are things for every body who has emotions to enjoy, and cannot think of anybody that I wouldn't recommend this to. This book was so much fun. I had a great time listening to it and am thrilled to have received my physical copy today (two days after the release). I laughed. I cried. I woke my husband for surprise 1 a.m. sex. 10/10; will read again!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Talbot Hook

    This book is quintessential Folds in many ways, at turns irreverent and pensive— sometimes within the span of a single sentence; just as listening to one of his albums (say, Whatever and Ever or Sound of the Life) straight through will yield a very mixed emotional experience, so too will this book have you both chuckling and wistful in a single sitting. There are several praiseworthy elements to this memoir, most notably the alacrity and honesty with which Folds analyzes some of the hardest expe This book is quintessential Folds in many ways, at turns irreverent and pensive— sometimes within the span of a single sentence; just as listening to one of his albums (say, Whatever and Ever or Sound of the Life) straight through will yield a very mixed emotional experience, so too will this book have you both chuckling and wistful in a single sitting. There are several praiseworthy elements to this memoir, most notably the alacrity and honesty with which Folds analyzes some of the hardest experiences of his life. He does a fine job of tying particular events to the birth of inspiration and creativity for his music, all while providing the reader, with grace and wit, the salient moments and details in his history which propelled his career just as they exploded his personal life. I find, though, that Folds is better in poetry than prose. While I find many of his lyrics extremely moving, brilliantly crafted, and exceedingly clever, I get the sense that he tapped into that same vein when writing this book. But I don't think it translated too well into a three-hundred page work. Pithy fragments with robust craftsmanship and delicate inspiration are the lifeblood of much poetry and music, but the memoir calls for a different approach. And Folds didn't quite seem to understand the nature and form of the memoir; many times, he tried too hard to write quirky one-liners and memorable sayings (some of which succeeded, some of which flopped), which doesn't work unless one is Oscar Wilde. And, the inclusion of most of his lyrics throughout the book were random at best — oftentimes, they were a detraction, an interruption, to the flow of his narrative. Above all, though, I felt the book simply lacked depth. Everything seemed to be a surface play, even when emotions and self-growth were the topics to hand. Things were recounted, but never really made purposeful for the reader. The word "existential" was used at points while never really feeling existential, and that is a true shame. In a memoir, one is ironing out one's life for the reader: tracing a trajectory not simply material but spiritual. And while his memoir does a good and entertaining job of hashing out the whens, wheres, hows, and whats of Folds's life, it usually lacks a strong sense of the why. If to write a memoir is to bare one's soul, this memoir feels dissembling, then — as if the author is still partially concealed behind the curtain. He does come out occasionally, though, as when he writes about creating songs such as "Evaporated" and "Still Fighting It"; in those passages we see the thoughtful, vulnerable songwriter that is just as much a part of Folds as the one who flips the bird to the audience while shouting, "Kiss my ass!". Yet the book catered much more to this flippant and immature persona (which I mostly love), and failed to reveal the intellectual empath that I believe to be present. Where is the depthful thought in this memoir when compared to his song "I'm Not the Man"? To me, one shines a light inwardly to illuminate the soul, while the other is a good story told at a cocktail party. This is to say: there is a schism in personae that went unbridged in the book that I can't quite overlook. Perhaps, as he relates in one of the later chapters, he is still hiding somewhat behind crass humor and a certain stage persona created long ago. I don't know. But I found this aspect of the whole thing deeply unsatisfying. I guess, ultimately, I hold Folds as capable of more — capable of anything. And that includes taking off the performer's mask fully so that we see the human face beneath.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Abigail (Abbe)

    Fun and self-indulgent in the most positive sense. Ben Folds is a musical favorite of mine and it was fun to read about his creativity and perspective. 4.5 stars

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    Not usually one for autobiographies, but Ben Folds music has been one of the most major influences of my life. I was particularly nervous however as with only 10 pages to go there had not been mention yet of my two favourite albums: ‘The Sound of the Life of the Mind’ and ‘So There’. However I was personally buoyed to find out that these albums were the result of Bens first endeavours with personal therapy and retreats into silence. I think it shows. After reading this I have come to the conclusio Not usually one for autobiographies, but Ben Folds music has been one of the most major influences of my life. I was particularly nervous however as with only 10 pages to go there had not been mention yet of my two favourite albums: ‘The Sound of the Life of the Mind’ and ‘So There’. However I was personally buoyed to find out that these albums were the result of Bens first endeavours with personal therapy and retreats into silence. I think it shows. After reading this I have come to the conclusion that I think Ben Folds would be the kind of guy who would find a lot of resonance with Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, and while I think this would understandably piss a lot of people off, I take comfort in it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Emily Eloise

    “What has been good for the music hasn’t always been good for the life” I listened to this book on Audible. Ben narrates the book and even includes a little bit of piano and bass. It is worth using your monthly audible credit on this because I have never experienced an audiobook like this before. I am a Big Ben (it autocorrected to capital letters which I find amusing) Folds fan and I wanted to review this with little bias as possible. Ben has created a fantastic auto-biography of his early year “What has been good for the music hasn’t always been good for the life” I listened to this book on Audible. Ben narrates the book and even includes a little bit of piano and bass. It is worth using your monthly audible credit on this because I have never experienced an audiobook like this before. I am a Big Ben (it autocorrected to capital letters which I find amusing) Folds fan and I wanted to review this with little bias as possible. Ben has created a fantastic auto-biography of his early years, Ben Folds Five (BFF) and post BFF. I found Ben’s recount to be honest reflection of his career so far. He really called himself out in some areas which was nice to see. I enjoyed listening to the creation of BFF albums and the Rocking the Suburbs album (one that will be always special in my heart). I looked at other reviews on here about Ben not being more open and honest about his relationships. This seems to be a common occurrence in low reviews. This is true, he rarely spoke about his relationships outside Anna Goodman: I do believe this is out of respect for his children and that Anna was a big part of Ben’s early career. I really have never been interested in Ben’s life and I didn’t know much about him. I think this made it even more thrilling. Ben broke down music creation and creativity (I will always appreciate a pianist because I could never do this). If you are interested in music and even if you aren’t a BF fan, this will be an interesting book for you.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Book Club of One

    A mix of memoir and self help, A Dream About Lightning Bugs follows Folds from early life to the near present. Reflecting on his formation, career and finally establishing a healthy but challenging day to day life. At slightly over 300 pages a lot of the length of the book covers Folds formation, from very early life, not hitting the Ben Folds Five years until towards the middle. It’s great that Folds has been able to continue his career in a more healthy fashion, pursuing projects that interest A mix of memoir and self help, A Dream About Lightning Bugs follows Folds from early life to the near present. Reflecting on his formation, career and finally establishing a healthy but challenging day to day life. At slightly over 300 pages a lot of the length of the book covers Folds formation, from very early life, not hitting the Ben Folds Five years until towards the middle. It’s great that Folds has been able to continue his career in a more healthy fashion, pursuing projects that interest him and working to support the arts. However I’m disappointed that the behind the scenes features of the early albums are not sustained as they seem to become just another album. I would’ve loved to hear about Folds’ collaborations with Nick Hornby or YMusic. Any fan of Folds will find an engaging read, but be left wanting more. As often happens one is left wondering about the other perspectives, like from his ex-wives, bandmates, or collaborators.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bryan

    It's been a good year for rock musician memoirs. This one was just as good as Roger Daltrey's, in my opinion. Here we have a man who I have been listening to since 1995 and always had a bit of hero worship for. I have had the privilege of meeting him a few times and just blubbered, so I took this book as a real opportunity to "get to know the man" that I've wanted to share a beer with. And it didn't disappoint. Full of great stories that I KINDA new, some I didn't know, and, most importantly, gre It's been a good year for rock musician memoirs. This one was just as good as Roger Daltrey's, in my opinion. Here we have a man who I have been listening to since 1995 and always had a bit of hero worship for. I have had the privilege of meeting him a few times and just blubbered, so I took this book as a real opportunity to "get to know the man" that I've wanted to share a beer with. And it didn't disappoint. Full of great stories that I KINDA new, some I didn't know, and, most importantly, great advice for us creative types. My favorite book of the year so far

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    I wanted more from this book. Maybe because I like Ben Folds so much as a songwriter, I expected more depth in his memoir. The first third of the book, about his childhood and first attempt at college I found interesting. However in the later 2/3's of the book we don't get much of Folds's emotional life. He was married multiple times, yet we learn little about his relationships. For me, there ultimately wasn't enough "there" there.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rachel O

    I never knew my love for Ben Folds could get any bigger but it totally has after reading his book. He is a beautiful and honest writer and doesn’t try to sugarcoat his “cheap lessons” that he has had along the way. I’ve interviewed, photographed, and met this musician a few times now and am thrilled he wrote his book and gave us all a better look into his life and music.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jay Gabler

    It's appropriate that A Dream About Lightning Bugs is being published around the same time as C.M. Kushins's excellent new Warren Zevon biography Nothing's Bad Luck: The Lives of Warren Zevon, because the two artists have a lot in common. They're both musicians' musicians, not in the prog-rock virtuoso sense but in the sense of being melodic geniuses with accessible but subversively witty senses of humor and appealingly anarchistic streaks. They're also both essentially self-made musicians with m It's appropriate that A Dream About Lightning Bugs is being published around the same time as C.M. Kushins's excellent new Warren Zevon biography Nothing's Bad Luck: The Lives of Warren Zevon, because the two artists have a lot in common. They're both musicians' musicians, not in the prog-rock virtuoso sense but in the sense of being melodic geniuses with accessible but subversively witty senses of humor and appealingly anarchistic streaks. They're also both essentially self-made musicians with multi-instrumental curiosity that steered them towards formal training yet kept them from ever quite buying into that world. Folds credits one college music professor — Robert Darnell, at the University of North Carolina — with recognizing his talent and steering him towards the piano, but to get there, he first had to flunk out of percussion at the University of Miami and throw his drum kit into a pond after blowing a performance test due to injuries sustained in a drunken brawl the night before. I reviewed A Dream About Lightning Bugs for The Current.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Em

    Ben Folds Five featured heavily in the soundtrack of my youth, so I really enjoyed this book. I would have liked a bit more about the band, but still Ben's stories were interesting.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Charlie

    Enjoyed the conversational tone. Wish there’d been more stories of making the records and the creative process behind them, but that wasn’t really the point of this book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Reannon Bowen

    I really struggled to finish & be interested in this. While I’ve enjoyed Bens music over the years his book was quite boring. One thing I’ll give him, he’s honest about his shortcomings & owning all the times he’s messed up. I really struggled to finish & be interested in this. While I’ve enjoyed Bens music over the years his book was quite boring. One thing I’ll give him, he’s honest about his shortcomings & owning all the times he’s messed up.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    I’ve been a fan of Ben’s since the mid-90s, so I was particularly interested when this book came out. It’s a quick read that has both entertaining stories and thoughtful Cheap Lessons (TM) that are applicable to all of us, not just budding musicians.

  22. 4 out of 5

    shannon

    Listened to the audiobook narrated by Mr Folds himself. A delightful performance by the piano rockstar.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sarah E White

    Fantastic musician; unfortunately the book isn't as lyrical, creative, or interesting.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    An entertaining insight into the mind of one of the most unique musical voices of the nineties. I've always enjoyed the music of Ben Folds/Ben Folds Five, but I didn't know a great deal about the man behind the band. This book certainly changed that, and I would urge any fan of Ben Folds - or music - to have a read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jim Landers

    Just like his songs, this memoir feels so open and honest. It's honest in the way I was in my own young jackass years in that is possible to be honest to your moment-to-moment feelings while still persisting as an asshole by following those feelings. I'm glad he's found meditation and other means of slowing down and interupting those impulses. So interesting to read something that seems simultaneously self-aware and obtuse, but I guess that's what we gain in hindsight with reflection.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Philip

    The song I wrote for my daughter, Gwendolyn. "There is no such thing as repetition. Only insistence." - Gertrude Stein, quoted on page 54. I'm pretty sure no one's reading this unless they're already a Ben Fold's fan, or music aficionado. I style myself as something of both, but there are bigger fans, and people way more into music than I. The phrase, "keeping it real" comes out of hip-hop culture, but in my mind, there are few artists out there realer than Ben Folds. I mean, sometimes he got a lit The song I wrote for my daughter, Gwendolyn. "There is no such thing as repetition. Only insistence." - Gertrude Stein, quoted on page 54. I'm pretty sure no one's reading this unless they're already a Ben Fold's fan, or music aficionado. I style myself as something of both, but there are bigger fans, and people way more into music than I. The phrase, "keeping it real" comes out of hip-hop culture, but in my mind, there are few artists out there realer than Ben Folds. I mean, sometimes he got a little too real, right? ("Just went to the store, for some Preparation-H.") He humanizes himself in his songs, and has made himself fairly accessible to fans. Most importantly, he's followed what interested himself - rather than the clearest path to the big bucks. I mean, one of his albums is various university Capella groups singing his songs. (My favorite from that album is Magic, a BFF song not written by Folds, but rather Darren Jessee. But man, the arrangement by The University of Chicago?) Folds talks about his inner robot, which I read as burnout. It's something teachers - and maybe everybody has to fight against. He says, "But surrounding myself with the people I find interesting, and who share the same interests, keeps my inner robot at bay." Folds is like my spirit animal on this. Chasing what interests me, rather than what will make me the most money is why I'm still here on goodreads. I like it. I'm not writing or reviewing to get paid, I just enjoy doing it, and I'm surrounded by other people who read and like to read just for the sake of reading, or becoming better people or whatever. Of course, Folds still seems to be doing okay for himself. If I was making no money, I wonder if I'd still make time to chase the art and expressive outlets that interest me. My wife and I have had any number of arguments over the humor of Andy Kaufman. It was captured really well by Jim Carey in Man on the Moon. Kaufman wanted the TV studio to mess with the vertical alignment, so that all of America would (for the briefest of moments) think that their TVs were broken. They'd get out of their seats, bang on the TV... then it would be fixed - and they'd be like: alright! I've fixed it! (here's the clip.) Later on, somebody says, "but nobody will know it was a joke," and Kaufman replies, "Yeah... but I'll know." That kind of comedy is getting more and more dangerous, in my mind. And sometimes it's not funny at all. But it's also the type of joke I tell more than any other. So, there it is. One day - like Folds - it is bound to get me into trouble. (Folds had the audience start a rumor that he'd been arrested, and it threatened to have the entire tour cancelled. But that type of inside joke that only the artist, and the live audience are part of? Love it.) I picked up other tidbits, like Folds' great-grandfather being black - which makes me wonder about some of the lyrics in his, "My Redneck Past." His recollection of being in DC on September 11th - the release date for Rockin' the Suburbs - was affecting. And I enjoyed hearing how uncomfortable he was playing Bitches Ain't Shit - and why he doesn't play it anymore. The picture of the jeep made me uncomfortable. (For real, if you're in a book store or library and thinking about this book, flip to page 23... #SurvivorBias) A final word on Folds: I've always appreciated his advocacy for the arts, and public education. He has a chapter, "But for the grace of my music teachers" where he accounts for his time (one day) as a substitute teacher - and then goes on to give shout-outs to a number of his teachers. I'm a sucker for that kind of stuff.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jack Connolly

    As a huge fan of Ben Folds (Whatever and Ever Amen is one of my all time favorite albums, front to back, and Evaporated is my favorite song), I was pretty bias from the get go. That being said, I felt more ok about this autobiography of his. Good, not great. I think the biggest reason is the first half just felt unremarkable and kind of sluggish. There were some neat stories, but not enough that I felt held my interest, or tied into what I was expecting to be with his future career as a musician As a huge fan of Ben Folds (Whatever and Ever Amen is one of my all time favorite albums, front to back, and Evaporated is my favorite song), I was pretty bias from the get go. That being said, I felt more ok about this autobiography of his. Good, not great. I think the biggest reason is the first half just felt unremarkable and kind of sluggish. There were some neat stories, but not enough that I felt held my interest, or tied into what I was expecting to be with his future career as a musician, all that well. That being said, the second half was everything I hoped he would discuss, and I found them all rather enjoyable and insightful. What stood out most to me was his reverence for his great song Jackson Cannery from when he started out, it definitely came across how special that was to Ben as he was starting out. Also, his unique approach to writing songs, namely how he writes them from what he did at live shows (I won’t go further than that as I wouldn’t do the story justice). His journey from album to album is definitely interesting, though I wish, at times, there was more depth (I felt he only scratched the surface on his stories of the origin of the song brick and the eventual end of Ben Folds Five). That being said, I have no doubt fans of Ben Folds will enjoy this book quite a bit. As much as I was left wanting more, I’m happy with what I got, to learn to live with what I am (I’m also a little confused as to the title of the book, but it’s also not my story to tell). This is an enjoyable book, worth checking out if your a curious fan with major boredom singing whatever and ever, Amen (I’ll stop now.... oh well, maybe not... sorry, try again?)

  28. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Langert

    Ben Folds has been one of my favorite musical artists from the moment he came onto the scene with Ben Folds Five, a trio. Piano, bass and drums. They had a great, unique sound and Ben wrote catchy, clever songs. The fact that Ben Folds Five was a trio was early evidence that Ben is a silly, wise guy. I have followed his work closely all these years and observed the folding (sorry about that) up of Ben Folds Five, his solo work, his collaborations with William Shatner, various symphony orchestras Ben Folds has been one of my favorite musical artists from the moment he came onto the scene with Ben Folds Five, a trio. Piano, bass and drums. They had a great, unique sound and Ben wrote catchy, clever songs. The fact that Ben Folds Five was a trio was early evidence that Ben is a silly, wise guy. I have followed his work closely all these years and observed the folding (sorry about that) up of Ben Folds Five, his solo work, his collaborations with William Shatner, various symphony orchestras and a cappella groups. I also read about his tumultuous personal life: marriages (four of them) and divorces (all four). An abortion before all of the marriages, the foundation of Brick, maybe his biggest hit. This book is his version of all that went on. It is very candid. He made many mistakes and does not really apologize for them. He realizes he is a flawed person and maybe only now is he somewhat smoothing the rough edges he has. The book is well-written and genuine. He’s done it his way.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    I liked Ben Folds music growing up. Songs like Brick, Magic, Still Fighting It, Emaline, Philosophy, Steven's Last Night in Town, and so many more graced my mixed tapes and were the focus of my solo crooning sessions in my room. I guess I sort of forgot about him over these last 10 years (sorry!), so I was happy to find this book on the new releases shelf at our local library. I enjoyed reading about Folds' early years and the creative drive he possessed. I loved the reminders of songs I'd forgot I liked Ben Folds music growing up. Songs like Brick, Magic, Still Fighting It, Emaline, Philosophy, Steven's Last Night in Town, and so many more graced my mixed tapes and were the focus of my solo crooning sessions in my room. I guess I sort of forgot about him over these last 10 years (sorry!), so I was happy to find this book on the new releases shelf at our local library. I enjoyed reading about Folds' early years and the creative drive he possessed. I loved the reminders of songs I'd forgotten about, and it was fascinating to hear about the long road he took to get to the place where he could write and perform them all. I thought the book ended abruptly, however. In the last ten pages, it sounded like Folds was getting to a place of balance, peace, and fulfillment. I enjoyed the lessons and perspective he was sharing near the end. I was interested to hear more. I guess most people want to hear the trouble and tension as it makes for a more compelling story.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Alison

    I've always loved Ben Fold's intelligent songwriting and exceptional musicpersonship, and a little put off by his potty mouth and potential misogyny. This great read is mostly memoir with some encouraging affirmations for creative types struggling to turn their life experiences into art. Now in his early 50's, Ben is compassionately self-aware, and I feel vindicated in my devotion to this quirky human's body of work. Ben's perception of his life to date brings to mind a Maya Angelou quote that I I've always loved Ben Fold's intelligent songwriting and exceptional musicpersonship, and a little put off by his potty mouth and potential misogyny. This great read is mostly memoir with some encouraging affirmations for creative types struggling to turn their life experiences into art. Now in his early 50's, Ben is compassionately self-aware, and I feel vindicated in my devotion to this quirky human's body of work. Ben's perception of his life to date brings to mind a Maya Angelou quote that I identify with: "You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great…" I rarely rate books I've read, and it's even more rare of me to award 5 stars. An exceptional read, just like the exceptional person Mr. Fold's is.

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