Readers might reasonably wonder if such an artist merits a doorstop like this one ... Fishman, a songwriter and musician as well as a cultural journalist, answers the question by turning Converse’s very lack of acceptance into its own subject. To Anyone is the grandly researched portrait of a talent who didn’t get her due, a kind of worst-case study of why this indignity remains a brutally common occurrence ... Fishman’s passion for this music and his devotion to uncovering its origins are infectious, and form a secondary plot of the book ... Simultaneously the record of an obsession and its ultimate payoff. It’s hard to think of any book that grants such loving attention to an artist who has otherwise been denied it ... Connie Converse may never reach the broad audience that those projects found; her music is gorgeous but low-key and elusive, like candid black-and-white photos from a time when everyone smoked indoors. But To Anyone Who Ever Asks is a rich paean to it, and to the profound connections that art can form between individuals, even decades apart.
Gripping and searching ... Mr. Fishman lacked the vast public record most music biographers sift through. He found something better: the five-drawer filing cabinet in Philip Converse’s garage filled with hundreds of recordings, photographs, slides, lyrics, and meticulously archived letters ... Mr. Fishman’s thoughtful and deeply researched book provides a far bolder jolt than any cover version can provide.
Fishman’s cri de coeur effort to piece together the puzzle that was Connie Converse, to make the case for her singular talent, and to bring her songs—at long last—to the attention of the broad audience Fishman believes they deserve ... Perhaps because many of those who knew Converse died before Fishman could interview them, perhaps because there was little in the public record, To Anyone Who Ever Asks has a rather high ratio of speculation to certainty ... Still, Fishman’s passion for his subject is contagious, his sense of mission inspiring.
The first biography of Converse, although biography is too tidy a word for this shaggy beast of a book. It’s a close study of Converse’s music, a patchwork memoir of Fishman’s own decade-plus obsession with the singer, and a piecemeal reckoning with the Converse family’s history of alcoholism, mental illness, and borderline incest. It’s also unabashedly a fan’s book, with all of the passion and chauvinism that implies ... One of the shortcomings of Fishman’s book. In lieu of primary sources, he offers a fan’s sentimental fiction ... Fishman is on firmer ground when he analyzes Converse’s catalog ... 'This is far from a perfect book,' Fishman concedes at the end—and he’s right. Its structure is too often sloppy, with uneasy transitions from biography to personal digression; its tone is occasionally treacly; its treatment of Converse is hagiographic. But it’s likely the only—the final—full biography of Converse, and so I’m willing to see the book’s clumsiness as endearing rather than disqualifying because I want Converse to finally get her due without reservation.
Fishman has his work cut out filling in the blanks in Converse’s life, which accounts for the book’s many narrative detours. He gets rather too involved with the stories of Converse’s parents, uncles, aunts and grandparents ... There is no shortage of evidence pointing to Converse’s creative brilliance and Fishman rightly puts her work front and centre. But there is no avoiding the fact that his close readings of her lyrics are based, for the most part, on guesswork ... Fishman is not the first writer to attempt to chronicle the life of Converse and he won’t be the last, though his portrait is the most complete so far.
In-depth biography ... The text’s power derives as much from the writer’s obsession as from Converse’s music ... Because so little is known about this private woman, Fishman is forced to engage in speculation about her influences, thoughts, and motivations, but his enthusiasm and diligence are infectious.
A rich biography ... Fishman’s perceptive analysis of Converse’s songs illuminates their artistic and autobiographical influences ... The scrupulous detail sometimes slows the pace, but Fishman succeeds wildly in uncovering the anguish and beauty in Converse’s bewildering story. This should earn Converse some new fans.