U2 by U2 (book)

This is a review of the book U2 by U2, by U2.

It is a bit of a misnomer, this book title, because it is not really by U2. It is by Neil McCormick, who a while back was thinking about Killing Bono, and apparently changed his mind and decided to write about him instead. But it is more than that, because it is Neil interviewing each of the band members in depth and getting their specific takes on the things that have happened to the band, and the history of the band. In that sense, it really is by the band, and given that all the words in the book are the band’s words, it is by U2. Neil has merely taken those words and formed them into appropriate chapters, or conversations between the band members, and made it theirs. So we can say it really is by U2.

I have talked about the quality of a book being directly related to the closeness of the author being to the band. The closer they are, the more involved they are, the better the book. In this case you obviously cannot get any closer than in using the words of the band themselves (including Paul McGuinness), with no interpretation between them and the page. That by default would make this the best book on the band, but it is the best book not just because of that. It is the best book you could get on U2 because it goes into depth and brings their perspective to things, their words and their ideas. There is the thought that they may be too close to themselves, so they might not have the best perspective, but really that’s not true. It’s kind of like asking an author what their book is about, they are going to tell you what they were thinking when they wrote it, regardless of whether others have given it different meanings over the years.

Reading through the book, there are many bits and pieces that I have read before here and there, the same stories you’ve heard from other places. But there are so many that are different, that are the truly inside pieces, the things that only these five guys could actually tell you. The stuff from Bono about his potential throat cancer, and the risk of surgery, I have heard the overview before but reading this in Bono’s own words gives a different feeling to the whole thing. You get that feeling throughout the book, a different perspective, a little detail, adds to the immediacy of the book.

As I skimmed back through the book today to write this piece, one section struck me. It was about the moments after 9/11, which of course resonated deeply today after the events in France last night, especially with the U2 connection once again. I was thinking about what they would be saying about Paris in a few years, will those words be the same. They have made a few comments today, and we’ve seen pictures of them in Paris at one of the attack sites. But the line that really resonated with me was from Paul McGuinness, who said that America “went through a convulsion then that the rest of the world may be paying the price of for the rest of time.” It is this idea, that the reaction of the US after 9/11 has and will lead to ongoing strife. It makes me think of Paris, and what the reaction to that will be, and how we can possibly react in an appropriate way. As Bono said somewhere else, their prayer was that we do not become a monster in order to defeat a monster.

My rating for U2 by U2: 9 / 10