So hooked by audio that I have to read books aloud. *If my reviews help, please let me know.
Absolutely without guile; open, frank, visual. What a life, what a legacy, and what a g-g-generation!
To put my 5* rating in perspective: as a very young teen, I was indifferent about The Who, couldn't name more than 3 songs they performed, wasn't a fan of the on-stage performance art-ish antics, and thought Tommy was mildly entertaining thanks to Elton John and Tina Turner; I'd rather have been listening to my Hendrix or Zeppelin LPs. So, my interest in this book surprised me; it was purely from seeing this very recognizable man recently on TV, promoting his bio, and being struck by his level of sincerity and vulnerability -- an almost apologetic demeanor without any of the ususal celeb braggadocio and self-aggrandizement that ruined some of the music celeb bios I've tried to get through (because yeah, we know, you're a bad A$$). Could that possibly be that rock star that used to do that windmill thing, smash his guitar, and strut with the royals of British rock, long live sex drugs and rock and roll? I was not some former fan, hoping to read Townshend's bio and flash-back to the glorious days when *I'd walk over you to see The Who.*
That perceived candor was accurate; I doubt it's possible to lay yourself so bare, as Townshend has done here, and be duplicitous. The history is fascinating and it reads like a grand timeline of rock and roll (which he calls *the absolute vehicle for self-destruction*). Townshend can probably go head to head with Keith Richards and his stories, but you don't get the sense that you are gathered around a pub table being regaled with wild rock star adventures -- though there are plenty of tales included. Instead, there is a kind of tolerance and wisdom that distances Townshend from being led by his talent to mastering his talent. His insecurities and self-doubts are bravely admitted, his love of family and friends obvious. I liked that he spoke about his achievements without bragging, aware of his talent as a gift--not a free pass to be an arse.
Once in a while an author connects to the reader and invites them into his life, it becomes intimate and real, like a confessional, and that connection is a gift borne of talent. Townshend's writing, and choice to narrate the book himself, put this book in that category. If I'd paid attention to those lyrics years ago, I probably wouldn't have been so surprised by his depth and talent. Like the man, this book is the real thing, and the product of a life lived hard...and well. The best celeb bio I've read to date (including the great Steve Jobs bio)--and remember, this is a man I had no interest in before. I'll have to go back and listen to The Who (with my *mature* ears) to see if I am yet a fan of the music, but I can say without any doubt I sure like Pete Townshend the man.
First of all, bravo to Macur, not only for her excellent job of journalism here, but for having the balls to stand up to Armstrong's cocky insistence, "You can write what you want, but your book is called Cycle of Lies? That has to change!" Evidently, the fallen, self-aggrandizing demigod is still juiced up on a cocktail of arrogance, bullying, moral relativism, and egotism. I'm more fascinated than disgusted -- as long as I don't have a full stomach. I'm also fascinated by Pete Rose, Bernie Madoff, the Emperor's new parade outfit, Presidents that scrutinize what the meaning of the word 'is' is, and anyone that has to have Oprah Winfrey clarify the word *cheater*.
Oprah: You did not feel that you were cheating taking banned drugs?
Armstrong: I went in and just looked up the definition of cheat. And the definition of cheat is to gain an advantage on a rival or foe that they don't have. I didn't view it that way. I viewed it as a level playing field.
Almost everything that has come out of this guy's mouth since he was finally cornered and force fed the irrefutable evidence, is a toxic sound bite arguing the case against there being even a miniscule glimmer of remorse, enlightenment, or humility within.
Cycle of Lies (nee-ner-nee-ner-nee-ner) is a *fascinating* and wonderfully researched book that rises above previous points of view and factoid pieces of work, setting some records straight, and obliterating others. Macur's one on one journalistic relationship with Armstrong (often more like a sparring partnership), and hours of conversations with insiders that have never spoken before about their knowledge of Armstrong, due to a doping *Omertà* among the cyclists, reveal whole new levels of ugliness to the grand deception. Called "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen," by the Union Cycliste International (UCI), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), and the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC). [Omertà implies "the categorical prohibition of cooperation with state authorities or reliance on its services, even when one has been victim of a crime"; a term used by the Mafia; or the equivalent of a pinkie-swear among cycling dopers.]
Probably the most revealing and damning information comes from Macur's exclusive access to 26 hrs. of taped testimony from Armstrong's mentor and surrogate father, J.T. Neal. Beyond the doping facts, Neal gives a clear picture of a boy that was ruthlessly mean, self-centered, and uncaring, who grew up to be a man that magnified those traits, determined to win at all costs. There is nary a kind word spoken of the champion (that actually never was, according to information contained in Cycle of Lies). Which shouldn't be so surprising dealing with a man that "used cancer as his shield many times," [The Armstrong Lie; Alex Gibney] and discarded people like used up garbage. Just when you begin to wonder if Macur had a wee bit of a get-back fantasy, a secret desire to dish out crow -- surely there has to be some tenderness, some softness somewhere, some pleasant testimony powerful enough to redeem the self-justification and destruction -- Armstrong opens his mouth and spits out another arrogant comment, demanding pity for money problems that ensued after sponsor's jumped ship, or thanks from corporations that owe their success singularly to him. He just doesn't get it.
Before listening to this book, I read Wheelmen: Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France, and the Greatest Sports Conspiracy Ever, by Reed Albergotti, and wrote down this quote: “...Lance is the inevitable product of our celebrity-worshipping culture and the whole money-mad world of sports gone amok. This is the Golden Age of fraud, an era of general willingness to ignore and justify the wrongdoings of the rich and powerful, which makes every lie bigger and widens its destructive path.” I think Macur eloquently makes the point that Lance is the product of Lance, and in the end, for any of us and our choices, the responsibility is ours alone.
If you are still hanging onto one of those rubber yellow wristbands, you're probably not going to appreciate a great job by author Juliet Macur. A cyclist myself, I found the book engrossing, with each mind-boggling revelation leading into another, more absurd than the previous. I tossed my Live Strong band, unworn, years ago. It's not my job to judge or forgive; I just remain fascinated, and in the saddle.
The trick to reading this very good book and not having a possible negative reaction (which is obvious in the varying reviews) is to refrain from judgements of the author, if possible, and just be enveloped in the story. Because, if you can avoid being infected by the candid and bitter details of a disappointing marriage--(the kind of inner and not so flattering feelings one usually shares only with their oath-sworn-to-patient-privacy shrink)--you will experience sensuous settings in far off places, refine your inner gastronome with exotic foods you've never heard of before, and almost taste "that lamb" as it sizzles over the rosemary scented fire. It really is a lovely epicurean trip that makes me want to lick my fingers as I recall some of the fare, and I could spend a day just conjouring up images of that castle/farmhouse, the meadows, orchards, and streams, the French ballet dancer mother with her omnipresent apron, the artistic bohemian father, the Italian villa, Rome by night--all the perfect ingredients.
The personal details are inarguably prickly; I found them uncomfortable yet brave admissions that lend authenticity to the story of this very authentic person. Coming from Hell's Kitchen tyrant Gordon Ramsay, or bad-ass Anthony Bourdain, the snarkyness would probably be expected and overlooked, like a mint leaf on mousse.Hamilton writes like she cooks and like she lives: committed, authentic, undiluted, without pretense...and that takes bravery--the kind of bravery one would expect from a young girl that can set off with a back pack and a little over $1,000 on a solo trip around the world. My opinion is that her narration lends a bit of personal revelation, which adds to the story. Glad I got around to this one.