Magazine article Newsweek

Music Journalist John O'Connell on Why He Tracked the Influence of 100 Books on David Bowie's Music; O'Connell Interviewed Bowie in 2002, and He Now Shares His Insights about Bowie and How His Book on Bowie's Literary Influences Came into Being

Magazine article Newsweek

Music Journalist John O'Connell on Why He Tracked the Influence of 100 Books on David Bowie's Music; O'Connell Interviewed Bowie in 2002, and He Now Shares His Insights about Bowie and How His Book on Bowie's Literary Influences Came into Being

Article excerpt

Byline: Meredith Wolf Schizer

In his new book, Bowie's Bookshelf, music journalist John O'Connell offers a unique analysis of David Bowie's self-proclaimed hundred most influential books, and how these titles influenced the symbolism and lyrics of one of the great musicians of the 20th century.

O'Connell interviewed Bowie in 2002, and in this Q&A, he shares his insights about Bowie and how this book came into being.

Why this book?

I've been a Bowie superfan since I was about 12. I wanted to honor him with a book, and after his top 100 list appeared, I thought it would be fun to tease out connections between the titles and Bowie's life and work.

What surprised you about meeting Bowie? Is he different from his persona?

I expected him to be chillier and more aloof. What surprised me most was how funny he was. For all the seriousness with which he applied himself to being successful, Bowie's relationship to the world was essentially comic. He was completely aware of the absurdity at the heart of being a "rock star," and there's a lot more humor in his work than many people realize.

Did you know then that he was a voracious reader? What did he share with you about the connection of his music to literature?

I'd heard the stories about the portable library Bowie carried around with him in the 1970s. It was obvious from his work that he had a wider frame of reference than most of his peers. He was promoting the Heathen album when I met him [in 2002], and he did talk a little about Gnosticism. …

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