America likes real people—people like us. This, as much as anything, is what's being sold on America's Next Top Model, American Idol, and the one-off formula plots of daytime talk shows.
At least, that's what the marketing says. In practice, though, most seasoned viewers have long since given up on any notions of authenticity, instead reveling in the far more cynical pleasure of watching an ensemble cast mold themselves into the prefab roles of an overfamiliar personality drama. The entertainment lies less in the performances than in the editing, less in genuine suspense than in second-guessing the show's producers.
Why, you ask, must reality be so filtered? It's because most people's lives, when left to themselves, are boring. It's the big dirty secret of the memoir form. This is why autobiographies were once reserved mainly for the public figure—presidents and prophets and the occasional Pulitzered—or at the very least someone to whom something interesting has happened. People who've been shanghaied by pirates, for example, or orphaned into a life of crime.
What John Sellers has done, on the other hand, is listen to a lot of music. Thus, his somewhat premature autobiography is a music-fan memoir, the story of a life shaped entirely to transient tastes. In Perfect from Now On (Simon & Schuster, 215 pages, $23), there are no Oprah-style hardships, no events of import, no hard-won truths. Rather, you learn that Sellers is embarrassed he once succumbed to the hairsprayed pleasures of Duran Duran, that he idolized U2 until forced to blanche at Bono's tumescent ego, that he wishes My Bloody Valentine would put out another album already.
Throughout, however, Sellers seems much less interested in the music than in recounting his own obsessive encounters with it. Accordingly, he careens preciously through his own musical past, begging absolution for the square love of Huey Lewis and, presumably, culling our congratulations for since moving on to the greener pastures of Guided by Voices (and for sharing a drink with that drinking man's drunk, Bob Pollard).
What he doesn't do, however, is offer much to the reader more interested in music than in John Sellers. The eventual feeling is that instead of reading a book you've spent the afternoon guiltily scrolling through the blog archives of a neurotic stranger. With luck, if you do stumble across Sellers' own blog (angryjohnsellers.blogspot.com), you'll find a link right back to this review.
Perfect from Now On