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Music Gift Guide: Books

Third and best book on Neil Young employs automobiles as its autobiographical device

Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, December 5, 2014, Music

Special Deluxe: A Memoir of Life and Cars

by Neil Young
Blue Rider Press, 384pp., $32

With three books now available on Neil Young, Special Deluxe easily earns the designation of most enjoyable. Jimmy McDonough's Shakey (2003) suffered from Young at first agreeing to cooperate then disappearing, which resulted in 800 infuriating pages. Next came the autobiography Waging Heavy Peace (2012), 500 pages ranging from enlightening to frustrating, and badly in need of an editor. Each chapter of this memoir focuses on one of the folk-rocker's many cars in his life, and the retelling of his boyhood years in Canada and the family automobiles finds Young's prose at its most delightful. The cars he buys are hulks, sometimes hearses, reaching back to the Thirties – Lincolns, Cadillacs, Jeeps. His watercolor depiction of them preceding every chapter adds visual depth. Young, 69, weaves stories of his music-making life in a manner that allows for the self-examination missing in his last book. He even admits to cantankerous behavior with CSNY. Climate change deniers beware: The lengthy last chapter deals with LincVolt and his trying to produce an engine that doesn't use fossil fuel while addressing global warming and carbon dioxide emissions.

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