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  • Writer's pictureJim Bessman

It's all in the family as Loudon Wainwright III launches 'Liner Notes' memoir

Blue Rider Press

“Clap your hands! It’s a book party! My birthday!” Loudon Wainwright III cajoled the room full of family, friends and publishing types last night at Dixon Place in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

And in fact, it was Wainwright’s 71st birthday, and more significantly, the publication date of his memoir Liner Notes: On Parents & Children, Exes & Excess, Death & Decay, & a Few of My Other Favorite Things (Blue Rider Press).

The author credited his Blue Rider editor Peter Gethers for pressing him to write the book after seeing him perform his ingenious Surviving Twin theater piece in 2014.

“He said, ‘You have a book in you,’” Wainwright recalled. “That sounded like a bad medical diagnosis! But I got it out—and now I’m book-free!”

The poignant, humor-filled but no-holds-barred 306-page Liner Notes—titled, of course, after the essay text and recording information that often accompany music album releases—covers his intensely conflicted family relationships. These include his father Loudon Wainwright, Jr., the celebrated Life magazine columnist (and deceased “twin” of Surviving Twin); his talented children Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, Lucy Wainwright Roche and Lexie Kelly Wainwright; and fellow singer-songwriter legends Kate McGarrigle, his late ex-wife and mother of Rufus and Martha, and Suzzy Roche, Lucy’s mother.

The book further juxtaposes Wainwright’s deeply personal observations with many of his great song lyrcs and excerpts from his father’s columns.

After Gethers introduced him, Wainwright performed a few songs backed by frequent acoustic accompanists Chaim Tannenbaum and David Mansfield and with vocal assistance from Lucy and her mother.

Gethers had said that he had tried to get a book out Wainwright for 15 years.

“I knew he didn’t want to do it,” Gethers said, noting that Wainwright had even written a song lyric about people who annoyed him about writing a book. Convinced that Surviving Twin would work as a book, Gethers is now satisfied that Liner Notes is a “brilliant memoir [with] wonderful prose worthy of his father [that is] moving, totally honest, uncomfortable-making, insightful and funny.”

On the back panel of Liner Notes’ dust jacket, Salman Rushdie hails it as “unsurprisingly, as good as its author's songs, with moments of sharp humor alternating with real-life pain, and vivid reflections on love, death, and the whole damn thing.”

Rosanne Cash, herself an acclaimed memoirist writes, “I expected a memoir that reflected all I know to be true about Loudon: a raconteur with an acerbic, sometimes mordant wit, unapologetic even when full of regret, funny and acutely, sometimes horrifyingly, honest. I got that and more. He is unafraid and clear-eyed about the events of his life—and utterly engaging.”



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