Joni: The Creative Odyssey of Joni Mitchell

Joni: The Creative Odyssey of Joni Mitchell

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by Katherine Monk
     
 

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From the moment Joni Mitchell's career began — with coffee-house bookings, serendipitous encounters with established stars, and a recording contract that gave her full creative control over her music — the woman from the Canadian wheat fields has eluded industry cliches. When her peers were focused on feminism, Mitchell was plumbing the depths of her own…  See more details below

Overview


From the moment Joni Mitchell's career began — with coffee-house bookings, serendipitous encounters with established stars, and a recording contract that gave her full creative control over her music — the woman from the Canadian wheat fields has eluded industry cliches. When her peers were focused on feminism, Mitchell was plumbing the depths of her own human condition. When arena rock was king, she turned to jazz. When all others hailed Bob Dylan as a musical messiah, Mitchell saw a fraud burdened with halitosis. Unafraid to "write in her own blood," regardless of the cost, Mitchell has been vilified as a diva and embraced as a genius, but rarely has she been recognized as an artist and a thinker.

This new portrait of the reclusive icon examines how significant life events — failed relationships, the surrender of her infant daughter, debilitating sickness — have influenced her creative expression. Author Katherine Monk captures the rich legacy of her multifaceted subject in this offbeat account, weaving in personal reflections and astute cultural observations, and revealing the Mitchell who remains misunderstood.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Canadian critic Monk (Weird Sex and Snowshoes: And Other Canadian Film Phenomena) presents a curious survey of Joni Mitchell's life and myth, lying somewhere between biography and music criticism. For the most part, the author makes a convincing case that certain pivotal moments in Mitchell's life and career are inseparable from, and essential to, a full understanding of corresponding moments in her vast and enigmatic output. This is exemplified in such passages as the extensive explanation of the effect Mitchell's childhood bout with polio had on the development of her singular guitar style. The anecdotal portions of the book are exceedingly well told, and most of the connections the author makes are cited substantially. In contrast, Monk often makes detours into Joni Mitchell mythology that, while clearly written from a place of affection and admiration, contrasts strangely with adjacent passages of a more factual nature, to disorienting effect. Readers expecting a straightforward biography, or those without a front-to-back familiarity with her catalogue may be further disoriented by Monk's tendency to arrange the narrative by topic, rather than strict chronology. With these caveats, however, the book is still essential for the Joni Mitchell superfan, and even people more casually acquainted with her work may enjoy what they learn. (Nov.)
From the Publisher

"I devoured this book—thrilling, dimensional, thorough; a gift to any Joni Mitchell fan; an in-depth portrait of the life of an artist. It felt oddly like tracking my own genealogy, as Joni Mitchell, unbeknownst to her, raised me from a very early age."
— Edie Falco, star of Nurse Jackie and The Sopranos

"The way that Monk writes freely about topics that aren’t directly linked to the plain facts of Mitchell’s biography... at first seems tangential, but it comes to be one of the best aspects of the book."— Biographile.com

"Essential for the Joni Mitchell superfan, and even people more casually acquainted with her work may enjoy what they learn"—Publishers Weekly

"Monk's [Joni] is the closest thing to essential reading. … This unique and thoughtful biography is recommended for all fans of Joni Mitchell.”—Library Journal, Starred review

"[Monk] lifts the veil on her fellow countrywoman. Her account of Mitchell's dramatic rise to fame and countless love affairs, which inspired her songs, makes for a riveting read."— Christian Science Monitor, Top Pick

"With clear-cutting language and an encyclopedic rock knowledge, Monk pursues the project with the laser-sharp focus of an anthropologist, digging for a more genuine portrait of the love-song-singing ingenue. ...an insightful read from cover to cover"—Boxx Music Magazine

Library Journal
Biographies of Joni Mitchell are attempted every few years, but the definitive one will have to wait until the singer-songwriter tells her own story. In the meantime, Monk's (Weird Sex & Snowshoes: And Other Canadian Film Phenomena) is the closest thing to essential reading. She describes her book as a "rambling adventure into the creative soul," and it follows Mitchell's path to popular and critical success as well as her self-imposed exile from that success, while frankly addressing the highs and lows of her career and personal life. One intriguing aspect of the book is Monk's pursuit of a kind of Mitchell-approved reading list (because of her subject's own interest in philosophy). Monk uses Martin Heidegger, Joseph Campbell, and especially Friedrich Nietzsche to tell Mitchell's story and shape the narrative of her creative odyssey. VERDICT Monk's own personality frequently surfaces, and it's noteworthy that the last two major books on Mitchell—this and Michelle Mercer's Will You Take Me as I Am—each fuse factual information with a strong authorial presence; it speaks to the impact Mitchell's music can have on an individual and makes for an engaging narrative. This unique and thoughtful biography is recommended for all fans of Joni Mitchell.—Peter Thornell, Hingham P.L., MA

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781553658375
Publisher:
Greystone Books
Publication date:
10/23/2012
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
633,882
Product dimensions:
5.64(w) x 8.32(h) x 0.92(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"I devoured this book—thrilling, dimensional, thorough; a gift to any Joni Mitchell fan; an in-depth portrait of the life of an artist. It felt oddly like tracking my own genealogy, as Joni Mitchell, unbeknownst to her, raised me from a very early age."
— Edie Falco, star of Nurse Jackie and The Sopranos

"The way that Monk writes freely about topics that aren’t directly linked to the plain facts of Mitchell’s biography... at first seems tangential, but it comes to be one of the best aspects of the book."— Biographile.com

"Essential for the Joni Mitchell superfan, and even people more casually acquainted with her work may enjoy what they learn"—Publishers Weekly

"Monk's [Joni] is the closest thing to essential reading. … This unique and thoughtful biography is recommended for all fans of Joni Mitchell.”—Library Journal, Starred review

"[Monk] lifts the veil on her fellow countrywoman. Her account of Mitchell's dramatic rise to fame and countless love affairs, which inspired her songs, makes for a riveting read."— Christian Science Monitor, Top Pick

"With clear-cutting language and an encyclopedic rock knowledge, Monk pursues the project with the laser-sharp focus of an anthropologist, digging for a more genuine portrait of the love-song-singing ingenue. ...an insightful read from cover to cover"—Boxx Music Magazine

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Meet the Author


Katherine Monk is a national movie journalist for Postmedia News Service. Her journalism career includes stints as a movie critic, pop music critic, and news reporter. Her bestselling book on Canadian film, Weird Sex and Snowshoes, was adapted to the screen by Omni Film in 2004. Joni Mitchell has been part of her life's soundtrack for as long as she can remember. She lives in Vancouver.

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