In this series we will bounce from the present day (2005) to the Memoir. It's tricky. After the first few chapters, where I set the situation up, in order to indicate when the story is in present day, I will place those sections in italic font. The "Memoir" will therefore be non-italic.
Please know that I ghostwrote AU John's "Memoir" and I have taken a number of artistic licenses as the story progresses. I add stories and anecdotes that I made up from whole cloth, I interpret events we know happened in a way that services the story, and I did try for the most part to stick to the proper timeline. But I'm not a historian, and I had to rely on a lot of Internet information and some or all of it may be wrong. I'm hoping people won't hold me to the little errors I make in this regard - I didn't want reality to get in the way of a good story!!!!! (I hate when that happens.) I'm also not British, so I may use improper terminology now and then. I tried to cross check myself through research, but I'm sure I got a few things wrong. I don't mind if you point them out so I can edit the stories, but I figure if we get too lost in those kind of details it must mean the story itself isn't compelling enough to hold the reader's attention!
One more admission - this one is embarrassing. I have to pretend that the Memoir is fantastic! Beautifully written! But I wrote it myself. But I have to claim this is true for the good of the story. To the extent it isn't fantastic or beautifully written is my fault, and not AU John's fault!
So, in this first chapter, we meet some new characters, and we go through AU John's anxiety about his newest creative project.
WARNINGS: This is ENTIRELY FICTION. Even if there are some historical events included, the story itself is ENTIRELY FICTIONAL. Just so we have that set. This is NOT REALLY JOHN'S MEMOIR. LOL. Oh - and this is a Slash AU, so if that's not your thing, you probably shouldn't read this. This particular chapter is PG-13.
New York City
“You’ve got to tie him down to a release date,” the publisher told one of the company’s editors. “He’s been yes’ing and no’ing for months now. We’ve cancelled two previous release dates. To our distributors, we’ve become like the boy who cried wolf.”
The editor on the other end of the telephone line, Lenny Weintraub, bit his tongue to hold back the words that wanted to come screaming out of his mouth: You try to tie down John fuckin’ Lennon, asshole! Lenny valued his job, and didn’t want to get fired, so he managed to keep the frustration out of his voice when he responded. “Creative artists are like this - they run hot and cold. I’m going to meet him at his place in a few hours - he doesn’t go to ‘offices’,” he added with more than a touch of arch sarcasm.
The publisher harrumphed. “I’ve heard that partner of his - McCartney - is a rational guy. People say you can talk sense to him, and he gets it. Why not ask him to get Lennon to commit to a date and stick to it!” This last was a demand, not a question.
It wasn’t as if Lenny hadn’t tried that several times already. He’d called Paul at his business offices on more than one occasion, and Paul had listened very politely to his venting and then had said, each time, “Let’s let John be John, shall we?” Lenny wondered if he should tell the publisher this, but then decided it didn’t matter. The publisher was blaming him for Lennon’s feet dragging, and so the onus was on him to put a stop to it. “I’ll try that,” Lenny said, as if it were the best idea he’d ever heard. Stroke the boss’s ego if you can’t satisfy him any other way.
Sighing, Lenny hung up. He’d been absolutely over the moon when he had been selected to help John Lennon edit his memoir. This job had come to him smack out of the blue, because of his success in editing a major award-winning historical autobiography some years earlier. He was a huge Beatles - and particularly a John Lennon - fan, and had been beyond thrilled to meet his idol. And that first meeting had been quite the experience. It had been this time of year, but three years earlier - in May or June of 2002. He’d been invited up to the magnificent penthouse apartment with a breathtaking view of Central Park, and Lennon had answered the door in blue jeans, a t-shirt, and no shoes. Lenny had felt immediately awkward and over-dressed in his button-down shirt, tie, and suit.
“Hallo,” Lennon had said to him while scrutinizing his face with intense eyes. “Take your shoes off and come in.” The great man hadn’t introduced himself because he knew there was no need. Everyone on the planet knew who John Lennon was.
Lenny, in stocking feet and carrying his briefcase, had followed Lennon into a living room to end all living rooms. He had stood there staring at it all in awe for several moments before he noted that Lennon was waiting for him to sit down. He sat down.
“It is a great honor to meet you Mr. Lennon,” Lenny had stuttered nervously.
“Call me John,” Lennon had said. Lenny could just barely force himself to call the man ‘John’ when he was in his physical presence, but otherwise he always referred to him as ‘Lennon.’ Lenny just could not believe he was really on a first name basis with the great John Lennon.
“I understand your agent has submitted a book proposal to my publisher, and that it has been accepted, and you are interviewing editors to assist you in finishing the book,” Lenny said, hoping his voice didn’t sound as small and shaky as it did to him.
“Well, actually, I didn’t ask for an editor at all,” Lennon drawled. He had sat back in the sofa, and had crossed his legs under him ‘Indian-style’. His arms were spread akimbo, stretched out across the sofa back. “This is some kind of requirement your publisher has, apparently.” Lennon explained. He did not look convinced that an editor was necessary. This worried Lenny, who hadn’t known that Lennon might be adverse to an editor.
“There are tricks to the trade is all,” Lenny said modestly. “The readers want to hear your voice, not mine.”
John nodded non-committedly. He was going to adopt a wait-and-see attitude apparently. “So what do we do now?” Lennon had asked.
“Can I see your treatment or manuscript?” Lenny asked.
“You haven’t even read it yet?” Lennon had been unpleasantly surprised by this information.
“My publisher doesn’t want copies of it on the premises; this is a top secret project, and he doesn’t want me to work on it in the office. I’ll be working on it at home on a secure computer. So no, I haven’t seen it yet. I’m very much looking forward to it though.”
Lennon had listened to this explanation with growing perplexity. “Why top secret? We’re not developing an atom bomb. It’s just a book.”
Lenny had involuntarily smiled at Lennon’s comment, but also the way he pronounced the word ‘book.’ It was that ‘ew’ sound in the middle that Liverpudlians used. Lenny continued his explanation: “We want to make sure that you have all the privacy you want during the writing process; we don’t want any leaks or other unpleasantness like that.”
Lennon grudgingly nodded his approval of this information, and then said, “Well, let me find it for you. It’s only just what my agent calls a ‘treatment’. I haven’t gotten very far yet.” He got up and looked around vaguely as if he expected the manuscript to materialize out of thin air. “It’s around here someplace.” He excused himself and disappeared - presumably in search of a copy of the manuscript - while Lenny wondered why Lennon didn’t have it right there and handy, given the pre-planned nature of this appointment.
Several minutes later he heard, coming from another part of the apartment, “Paul! Paaauuulll!”
An answering voice shouted, “Music room!”
Lennon shouted, “Where’s my fuckin’ book!”
The shouting stopped. A few moments later, Paul McCartney came bustling into the room, followed by a complaining John Lennon. “I don’t know where I put it, did you see it anywhere?”
Paul nodded politely in Lenny’s direction but spoke to Lennon. “Honestly, John, how can you lose your own manuscript in your own home? You just had it less than an hour ago.” Paul disappeared into the kitchen. A moment later: “Here it is! On the kitchen table, of course. Where you were just sitting. First place I looked!” Paul's voice sang.
“Oh shut up, show off!” John shouted back, making Paul laugh. In turn, this made John laugh. Paul came into the living room and handed John a stack of well-worn papers, comprising about 40 or 50 pages. Paul then turned in a welcoming manner to Lenny and said,
“Hi, I’m Paul. And you are?”
Lenny cleared his throat. He knew McCartney was in his ‘60s, but there was something so youthful about the spring in his step, and the alertness in his face. Yes, there were some sags and wrinkles, but really, not that much. The energy he exuded was young. “I’m Leonard Weintraub, Mr. Len...er, John’s editor.”
“You poor sod,” Paul said, staring at him in deadpan pity, and then laughing good-naturedly. “Good luck. You’re gonna need it.”
“Hey! I’m right here! I can hear you!” John declared in mock outrage.
“I’ll give you a bit of advice, Leonard,” Paul said calmly, as though Lennon weren’t even there and hadn’t even spoken. His eyes stared straight into Lenny’s eyes, and didn’t’ even blink. “John’s bite is as bad as his bark. They’re both hideous.”
Just then Paul got whacked on the back of his head with a small sofa pillow.
“See what I mean?” Paul asked.
Charmed, Lenny laughed. He instantly liked Paul McCartney. What a cool, friendly guy! So normal! Lennon was scary as hell, but at least Paul was a nice man.
“Well, I’ll leave you two to it. John, try to behave, will you?” He bounced out of the room cheerfully.
John called after him, “Fuck off!” He then turned to Lenny and grinned like a love-struck teenager. “I adore that man.”
Yes, that had been quite the first meeting, and all the meetings that followed had that same kind of Vaudeville quality to them. It wasn’t long before Lenny learned that Lennon was also quite eccentric, in that he refused to go to office buildings and he didn’t like to speak on the phone about business, either. To conduct business with John Lennon, you had to go to where he was, and then hope that he wouldn’t cancel on you at the last minute. John Lennon had cancelled meetings at the last minute on him many times over the last three years. It wasn’t that Lennon was a neophyte in the publishing world - he was used to working with editors, because he had published three highly successful volumes of poetry. But Lenny had soon learned that Lennon didn’t change his writing habits or work hours to suit editors; editors had to change theirs to suit his.
And the worst problem wasn’t his iffy moods, prickly personality, odd work habits or aversion to the orderly conduct of business. No, the worst problem was his extreme ambivalence concerning the manuscript and publishing project itself. Lennon was either filled with over-flowing hubris and enthusiasm over it or crippled by doubt. Over the years, as the extraordinary work came together (Lenny could not quibble with Lennon’s talent as a writer or the fantastic stories he had to tell), Lennon would suddenly call him up and say,
“I can’t do this.”
“Because it’s too invasive of our privacy. I just can’t do this.”
“You knew that when you began the project, though, didn’t you?”
“See, back then it was just an idea. Now it feels like it is going to actually happen, and I’m having second thoughts....”
Second thoughts? Lenny chortled. He wished it were only two thoughts! Over the years, Lennon had pulled out as excuses for dumping the project: The book is boring, it isn’t good enough, it’s too embarrassing for Paul (who always seemed to Lenny to be perfectly fine with the manuscript; he’d read it and made helpful and funny comments in the margins), people will take it wrong, and misinterpret it, maybe after he died, and Paul too - a posthumous publication would be best, but then how could he respond to the idiots who misinterpreted the book if he was dead! He had to be around to answer them back! But there are already too many Beatles books, and there really isn’t anything new or interesting left to say, but then no one knew how it really was except him and Paul, so in fact maybe it was a worthwhile contribution to the oeuvre... Round and round and round the track it went, at breakneck speed, and Lenny was just barely holding on to the horse’s neck the whole way.
Now they were in the final stretch, and Lennon was balking again. John had written the publisher a letter, explaining that he appreciated very much all the time and attention that the company had invested in his book, but he just wasn’t ready to publish at this time. Maybe later. Maybe never. But certainly not in early December, which is when the publisher wanted to distribute it, just in time for Christmas. This is what had precipitated the publisher’s angry call to Lenny.
Sighing, Lenny packed his book bag. He had taken to wearing jeans and a pullover to his meetings with John - not to mention clean socks with no holes in them - and he had switched from a briefcase to a book bag after enduring several months of Lennon’s ironic and biting commentary on the subject of curious people who feel the need to carry briefcases. Lenny slung his book bag over his shoulder, put on his clip guard, and boarded his bicycle for his trip to the subway station nearest his Brooklyn apartment. From there he made his way to mid-Manhattan, emerging out of the underground station for a three-block walk to John Lennon’s eerie in the sky. It was a beautiful spring day, although the wind was very brisk, so Lenny’s nose was a bright shade of pink when he arrived at the penthouse. He saw his image in the shiny elevator door and swore to himself that no doubt Lennon would come up with some flippant, embarrassing remark about his face. Oh well, couldn’t be helped.
Lenny rang the doorbell, and a few moments later the door was flung open, and there was his adversary standing in the aperture. Lennon took one look at Lenny and cried, “Rudolf! So glad you could make it!”
“Ha ha,” Lenny fake-laughed in singsong fashion as he followed John down the hall to the living room. It really was impressive how quickly Lennon could come up with these spontaneous cutting putdowns; Lenny had to give him major creds for that. (When he had once complimented Lennon on the skill, Lennon had said seriously, “I’ve had years of practice.”)
“Did you see my letter?” John asked eagerly as they settled at the kitchen table, where most of their work was conducted. John had already made him a primo cup of coffee, as he always did, and had set out a plate of homemade scones with clotted Devon cream and some dark currant jam. Lenny had been amazed to discover how utterly domestic Lennon was: he did the cooking, he did the decorating, he kept the social calendar, and he even chose Paul’s clothing. Lenny had learned this from reading it in John’s manuscript - there was some hilarious back and forth over Paul’s terrible (in John’s opinion) sartorial taste. (“You don’t have to look at you! I do!”) And he was a really, really good cook. Chef quality. Lenny had had enough working lunches and dinners with Lennon to have eaten some serious gourmet food; food that he had watched Lennon make with his own eyes.
“My publisher faxed me the letter,” Lenny admitted. “You got me in trouble.”
“I’m serious. I think my publisher’s about to fire me,” Lenny insisted.
“He won’t fire you,” Lennon said with certainty.
“And you know this how?”
“Because if he fires you, I’ll go to another publisher, that’s why,” Lennon said succinctly. Lenny was surprised by this loyal remark and he didn’t know what to say about it. John saw the uncertainty there, and he smiled warmly. “I’ve sort of got used to you, Lenny,” he said charmingly, “the devil you know, right?”
Lenny relaxed. He doubted his boss was going to fire him, but he was trying to get some leverage over Lennon. “So, John, please, tell me what the impediment is to publishing this book by December?”
Lennon leaned forward in the way he did whenever he wanted people on his side - journalists, lawyers, agents. He knew how to make them feel special. Lenny knew by this ‘tell’ that he was about to be on the receiving end of a snow job. “It’s just that we have so little privacy. Almost none. And it keeps occurring to me that the tiny shreds we have left are being given away in this book. Once it’s out there, we’ve lost it forever. It’s hard to explain. If you’ve never been without privacy, you can’t know how much you’d miss it.”
Lenny was not unsympathetic. He often wondered why famous people exposed themselves in autobiographies. But Lennon’s book was different. It was not an autobiography so much as it was snapshots and vignettes from an extraordinary life, extraordinarily well written and full of learned lessons, while telling one of the world’s truly great love stories in the process. “I do understand your concern,” Lenny said honestly. “But let’s list the reasons why you wanted to do the book in the first place, shall we?”
John looked a little sour around the eyes, but he did not object to the suggestion, so Lenny continued.
“You told me that you wanted people to perhaps learn things from your mistakes. And throughout the editing process, you have repeatedly insisted that each anecdote we include has to serve that higher purpose. This is not - in any way - a ‘tell all’ book. It is not the least bit exploitive.”
John was feeling his heart beating as Lenny talked. He was scared. He was afraid of being the emperor with no clothes. Paul had assured and reassured him that the book was fantastic, but then Paul loved everything John ever wrote, so he was hardly objective. And by now Lenny had invested three years of his working life in this project, and no doubt wanted and needed for it to be published, so he was hardly objective either. John said, “If I knew it was objectively good...”
“It is objectively good,” Lenny emphasized. “I would tell you if it were otherwise. My reputation’s on the line here, too, and I’ve won awards with some of my editing jobs - that’s all at stake. Do you think I would risk that?”
“But people will buy it just because it’s me, and how will I ever know the truth?” John bemoaned.
“They will of course buy it because it is you - after all, the book is about you, not just written by you. But if it isn’t good they won’t read it, and the reviews will be bad, and it will stop selling. You will know the answer within a week. So your name alone cannot carry this book across the finish line. And as much as I can guarantee anything in this crazy business, I guarantee that your book is the perfect trifecta: it has a recognizable name attached to it, it is funny, emotional, and entertaining, and it has historical significance. This is going to be a homerun. You needn’t worry about it. You just need to understand that, sadly, fewer people read books than they do listen to music. So you can’t gauge book sales against music sales.”
John nodded his head that he understood. “I learned all about that with my poetry. I think I sold something like 400,000 copies of each of my volumes worldwide and they were raving about how successful it was. But two albums like that in a row would get you kicked off the label in the record business.”
“Your book will sell more than the poetry did, I assure you. I can guarantee a million, and maybe much more than that. That you sold that many copies of poetry volumes is incredible. And by the way, I love your poetry. I have read it all, and some of your poems I have read dozens of times.” This was true, but it was also part of the flattery game that was so important when dealing with insecure creatives.
John regarded Lenny as if he were trying to make up his mind about it. He finally said, “Part of me wants to do this, and part of me is scared. I’m really kind of a chicken.”
Lenny looked at Lennon with astonishment. “A chicken! Think about all of the incredible leaps of faith and risks you have taken in your career!”
Lennon smiled wistfully. “You must know from reading my book, that the career-related fearlessness is the McCartney side of the equation,” he said softly. “He makes me brave; he has never let fear stand in his way, and he brings me with him. It makes me willing to jump when he jumps without asking questions, you know? But I don’t seem to have any of that moxie when I’m dealing with a solo project. I’m riddled with uncertainty the whole time.”
Lenny was amazed that the man had opened up to him in this sincere way. For a moment, he actually did feel as though he was John’s friend. “Have you talked about this with Paul? Maybe he can help you make that jump.”
John thought about that. “I wish he would. But he doesn’t like to interfere in my solo work. He doesn’t want to pressure me to do something, only for me to regret it later and blame him.”
Lenny nodded. “I see that, I understand that.” He thought for a moment and then said, “So what’s the worst that can happen? Let’s get it out there!”
“The book could be a terrible flop,” John said immediately.
“That - I promise you, and I’ve had twenty years in the book business - that is never gonna happen. It will sell, even if the reviews are lukewarm.”
“Ok, so, it sells but it sucks. That would be humiliating to me,” John said sullenly.
“Have you ever had a music project get poor to middling reviews?” Lenny asked, knowing that the answer to that was ‘yes’ - a lot of Lennon’s solo work had been not well received, and there was that whole Magical Mystery Tour thing.
“Yes, of course,” John said.
“And you survived it?” Lenny asked, his eyes twinkling.
John laughed. “You sleazy bastard. You led me right down that garden path.”
“I think it’s all the same thing - an album, a song, a volume of poetry, a painting, a book... A creative person has to create. And the need to create is linked with a desire to share that creation. And by sharing that creation, the creator takes a terrible risk that it will not be appreciated or maybe it will even be panned. If so, it will be deeply and personally hurtful because the creation came from the soul. But he does it anyway, because he has to.”
John took that onboard and could not argue with it. He even thought he’d said similar things himself in the past. So he pulled out his last - and perhaps the most formidable - card. “I write very frankly about Paul and me. It is so precious to me. I’m terrified that it will be sensationalized, used politically, and reviled... My greatest fear is that by exposing us in that way I will open the door to exploitation and denigration of our love.”
This complaint Lenny could not dismiss or even debate. He said, “All that may be true. But everyone knows about your relationship now. It is common knowledge. They still buy your albums and your concert tickets by the millions. Yes, there are people who protest and write profane commentary on Internet sites, but those people will be like that no matter what you do. Can I tell you how I felt about it as I first read it, and when it was over, how I felt afterwards?”
John nodded in the affirmative, transfixed by Lenny’s words.
“I have never read about two people who fit each other so well, who love each other so much, who have given and taken so much from each other, and who are so hilariously funny and brutally honest with each other the whole while. It is an excruciatingly beautiful love story, and I think it will effect and change many minds - not the minds of the idiots who sit in dark rooms and write nasty anonymous comments - but the minds of a lot of people who presently just don’t understand how two people of the same sex could love each other in this way. They’re not bad people, really, they just haven’t been properly exposed to these feelings and ideas. I honestly believe that everyone will fall in love with both of you all over again.”
Lenny took a deep breath as John digested all this. “In fact,” Lenny continued, “I planned to propose that we have a subtitle for the book. It would be your chosen title, “Last Year’s Echo,” but the sub-title should be “A Love Story.”
In that moment John made up his mind, finally and forever. “I prefer ‘The Ballad of John and Paul,’” he declared, “because the story is about more than our love affair.”
“Chaos really hit it out of the park,” Paul mentioned to John as they sat down to dinner. He was referring to their new album, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard. “Reviews are fantastic. Doing really well, but we need to tour behind it. The States.”
John groaned. Tours. It seemed to him that he had been touring continuously for years. In truth: he had, although the ‘tours’ were in little bursts of 3 and 4 dates, with plenty of time off in between.
“I saw the artwork for my book today,” John offered.
Paul put down his fork and looked up in delight at John. “Really? How’d it look?”
“It’s that old photo of us that your brother unearthed - us leaning against that wall outside the Inny from a few months after we met.”
“You like it?”
“The cover photo looks good, but I’m a little perturbed by what the publishers did...”
“What’s that?” Paul asked.
“You know how they solicit blurbs from famous people for the back cover? The quotes are mostly about the ‘love story’ - I mean, they’re really pushing that angle of it, and I don’t like it. It’s part of the book, but it isn’t the whole of it.”
“Have you spoken to your lawyer?” Paul asked calmly.
“Is that what I should do?”
“Do you want to change it?”
“Then by all means, you have to discuss it with your lawyer. There’s time to change the cover work. You don’t have to accept it.”
“And, while I’m at it, the picture of me on the back really has to go.” John groused. “I have huge bags under my eyes and look about ninety-two.”
Paul nearly spit his sip of coffee across the room. With John, it was always a split-second rebound from the sublime to the ridiculous.
New York Publishing House
November 15, 2005
New York. The New York Publishing House announces the December 2, 2005 release of the long-awaited blockbuster memoir by the legendary John Lennon. Last Year’s Echo: The Ballad of John and Paul covers the life of the great musician, songwriter, artist, poet and social change agent John Lennon, and his creative and life partner, Paul McCartney.
It is at once a fun and riotous romp through the Liverpool and Hamburg music clubs of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, an adrenalin-driven roller-coaster ride through Beatlemania, and a candid and painful walk through the Beatles’ break up and the difficult struggles of the ‘70s through to the historic successes of the Lennon & McCartney partnership since the ‘80s. Always honest, frequently hilarious, but also touchingly sweet and thoughtful, Last Year’s Echo will answer all of the remaining questions Lennon and McCartney fans have about the music - and the musicians - who changed the world.
“That press release was a bit breathy, don’t you think?” John asked his press agent wryly. “Lots of flowery adjectives. Did you approve it?”
Henry said, “I made several edits, but fat lot of good it did. The final product had nothing in common with what I approved.”
“It’s a little embarrassing,” John confessed. “It makes me sound like I’m blowing my own horn in the loudest possible way.”
Henry chuckled. “All they want to do now is sell copies. The serious work - the writing and editing - is done. Now the Philistines take over.”
John said, as the arrant thought crossed his mind, “I would have liked to have met a Philistine in real life. I’ll bet they were actually a lot like Paul - reliable, hardworking, sensible, practical, a little offbeat and not followers of the ruling class, and with creative and inspired ideas about saving time and effort. I read once that they produced a whole hell of a lot of olive oil and fermented alcohol, but fought constantly with the Israelites, who were the ruling class. Sound like my kind of people. They just pissed off the ruling class, is all, and the ruling class writes the history books.”
Henry laughed out loud. The longer he knew John Lennon, the more he had grown to love him. Who else amongst his acquaintances had ever made such a charming and surprising comment about the way history distills the qualities of a people down to the lowest possible denominator, when written by the conquerors?
“It’s okay John,” Henry comforted. “Let the salesmen do their thing. They don’t understand us, and we don’t understand them. But we need each other in a kind of symbiotic way.”
November 18, 2005
“The advance copies of my book went out to the reviewers this morning,” John said softly. He was lying in the crook of Paul’s arm, and playing with the hairs on Paul’s chest.
“Fingers crossed,” Paul said softly.
“Are you ready for the fallout?” John asked him.
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” Paul chuckled. “Don’t worry about me, Johnny. I’m as tough as they come. But maybe I’ll have to wear a false mustache, fake glasses, a top hat, and an overly large overcoat for a few weeks.”
John laughed. “You can’t hide your beautiful light, Paul. It shines out from under the most obscure of disguises.”
“That doesn’t exactly fill me with cheer,” Paul responded. “I can take it, if you can take it. We’ll take it together. Like that old song - ‘when the world is through with us, we’ll have each other’s arms.’”
John felt a wave of relaxation run through him. Paul was right. It didn’t really matter what anyone said about them. They had their own world, and it suited them, and they could close the door, and by doing so, close out the whole world if they wanted to. He would have everything he needed and wanted inside that closed world with Paul. And if they chose to do that, it would be the world’s loss, not theirs.
“They say I have to do publicity for it,” John said. “I don’t know how I got suckered into that.”
“It’s standard in all book contracts, is what your lawyer said,” Paul explained. “It seems that books don’t sell as easily as music, so the publishing companies are taking a greater risk when they publish books. They all insist on publicity. I argued with your lawyer about this quite a bit. I did get them to agree that you only had to do two major interviews - one televised, and one print, and that you could choose the venues. At least you won’t have to do one of those excruciating book tours.”
John smiled. He should have known that Paul would take care of him, even when he was oblivious to it all. “I’m doing Charlie Rose again, and the London Times.”
“Good choices. You’ll do fine.” Paul patted John’s arm and then said, “Let’s noodle a little, and then get some sleep.”
John was not averse to that suggestion - not one tiny bit.
New York Times Review of Books
November 20, 2005
“So, you’ve all read Lennon’s book. Comments?” The chief editor said to the three assistant editors in the room with him. He had started the meeting off precisely on time, and did not want to waste time. He had also read the book of course, and was on fire about it.
“It’s incredible!” The first reader said. “I mean, I lived it, I breathed it, I loved it. It was like being inside John Lennon’s mind, which is like a kaleidoscope.”
The second one spoke: “I was mainly surprised by Paul McCartney. I had no idea how substantive a person he is. I really had my mind changed about him.”
“It’s such a sexy book. Not just the sex, but the humor, the music, the ambience, the honesty of it all - but also the over-arching cheekiness, like he is winking his eye at us as he writes,” said the third reader.
The editor in chief said, “It is a remarkable story of an amazingly successful creative partnership, is what I think. That is the headline. We have to go with that.” He thought for a few moments. “I loved the chapters when he wrote about their songwriting process - the organic way in which they work together.”
“But you have to admit,” the second reader said (who was female), “that the unrequited love theme that runs through the story - Lennon pining after McCartney - is the stuff of fiction. It’s magic, especially when you know that in the end, he won the prize!”
“Okay,” the chief editor said. “Who do we get to write the review? We need one of our top reviewers for this. This is going to be a critical success.”
“I’m thinking Jason Thrielkind is perfect,” an editor spoke up.
“Hasn’t he retired?” Someone asked.
“Only for the mundane projects. But I’m positive he will jump at this one,” the editor responded. “I’ll call his agent.”
Soon, the general consensus was that Jason Thrielkind was the best possible choice.
The phone rang in Jason and Gerry’s apartment. Jason was sitting in the kitchen reading the newspaper at the time. It was his agent.
“Jason, I have a major assignment for you, if you choose to take it.”
“Oh? What’s that?” Jason asked, not really interested. He surprisingly had enjoyed his retirement, and now, at age 70, was not too interested in working that much.
“It’s John Lennon.” His agent said the words as if he had said, ‘It’s the New Testament.’
Jason was confused. “What about John?” He asked.
“It’s his memoir! The NYRB wants you to do the review!”
The penny finally dropped. A deep silence followed. Then Jason said, regretfully, “I must decline.”
“Really? Why? Are you ill?” His agent was amazed first and then worried. Who would turn down such a plum assignment unless they were dying of some horrible disease?
“I’ve already read the book numerous times in gallows, and have provided advice and edits to the author,” Jason explained.
This agent was dead silent for several moments. Finally he said, “I’m sorry? I don’t understand.”
“John is a very old and dear friend of mine,” Jason confessed. He never told his work or outside friends about his relationship with John, so there was no way for them to know about it. “We’ve been close friends for nearly 30 years. He lived here in the Dakota at the same time as me for a while, which is how we met. There is no way I could write this piece; it would be a conflict of interest.”
Jason’s agent was stone cold shocked. “You never said.”
“It never came up,” Jason responded. His voice was firm and it suggested one thing: don’t ask any more questions about John Lennon, because I will not answer them.