The first comprehensive biography of this hipster magus. It tours his life without ever quite penetrating it. But it’s a knowing and thoughtful book ... He wrestles this material into a loose but sturdy form, as if he were moving a futon. He allows different sides of Smith’s personality to catch blades of sun. He brings the right mixture of reverence and comic incredulity to his task ... here’s a lot of material to tap into, and you’ll want to. Smith added a great deal to the national stock of peculiarity. He was the worm at the bottom of American culture’s mezcal bottle. You slam the glass down, because his experience still makes you feel alive.
Illuminating, definitive ... Szwed...is fascinated by the weirdos who fill our playlists, and even though Sun Ra believed he came from outer space, Smith could be the weirdest and most enigmatic of them all.
Interesting but uneven ... Frustrating gaps ... Smith destroyed many of his artworks and papers, making Szwed’s job harder — a point the author returns to whenever his search for details yields none. But Szwed doesn’t always have his facts right ... Choppy.
Music writer and biographer Szwed confronted both a mammoth and chaotic trove of materials and an even larger void of tragically lost artworks and collections as he assiduously and passionately constructed this engrossing, revelatory, often beyond-belief portrait of a reckless, maddening, cosmic, and transformational genius.