Tom Waits On Tom Waits: Interviews and Encounters
Rock & roll books from Austin to Beijing
Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., Dec. 16, 2011
Tom Waits on Tom Waits: Interviews and Encountersedited by Paul Maher Jr.
Chicago Review Press, 480 pp., $19.95 (paper)
"Just remember, I'm a rumor in my own time," Tom Waits tells Robert Ward in a 1976 interview for Syracuse New Times, touring behind his third LP, Nighthawks at the Diner. It's a subtle if pivotal moment for an artist who refuses to be pinned down, laid bare, or dissected. As this collection of interviews and articles reveals, this is the moment of myth-building, the album behind which Waits sinks into the comfort and digressions of his beat-poet brashness and scat-stripped interview quips. It's the point at which Waits becomes Waits, the moment when gauging to what extent this run-down growler of rowdy Zen-like one-liners is simply a persona or an actual, anachronistically wandering soul became a preoccupying pursuit of journalists. The interviews are a thrill – as much as any of Waits' albums – once the troubadour finally finds his ornery, eclectic, and diffused voice. The articles likewise showcase how much writers are happy to propel the image, to descend into Waits' inspiring world and let his style bleed into their print. They engage enough to make up for Maher's unenviable task of running a narrative through the clips, which reads as notes toward a fuller work rather than an actual, cohesive tome itself. Perhaps that's how Waits is meant to be read, can only be read – in pieces and verses, like apocryphal scripture.