What Is It All but Luminous: Notes from an Underground Man

We rated this book:


Opening Art Garfunkel’s book, What Is it All but Luminous: Notes from an Underground Man, is a bit of a shock. The font is off, there are pictures, the margins are seemingly wide, there is inset bolded text, and asterisks abound. And it is all perfect. The font, modeled from Garfunkel’s old handwriting, makes the discovery of his story feel intimate, like you are reading his personal diary, full of slight tangents and odd facts, quotes from writers he loves, and photos from his life. It doesn’t feel like any other book I’ve read, and I am grateful for that.

Garfunkel’s love of singing and his family is apparent throughout the text, but most surprising to me is his attention to detail regarding the books he’s read, character’s he’s loved, and the literature and philosophies that have shaped his life. He writes of living in Switzerland in the 1980s and beginning to write, the way his notes kept him balanced.

This is not a book about Simon and Garfunkel at all. It is, instead, a book about what it means to have been part of that iconic duo and then to not have been a part of it. It is about what it means to be a thinking, sensitive man in a world where you are bombarded with the expectations of others. He writes about his friendship with James Taylor, a man of “simple impeccable musicianship,” and his wife, his Kathryn, his “darling, harvest, [and] karma.”

If you are looking for a traditional, linear memoir, you won’t find it here. Instead, you’ll find the inner workings of a man whose artistic output and intellectual fire have kept him going for seventy-five years, a man who still had much to offer. This book is as much a treatise on how to live an examined life as it is a glimpse into the life of one of the most important singers of the last sixty years, and it is well worth a first, second, and third read.

Reviewed By:

Star Count 5/5
Format Hard
Page Count 256 pages
Publisher Knopf
Publish Date 2017-Sep-26
ISBN 9780385352475
Bookshop.org Buy this Book
Issue January 2018
Category Biographies & Memoirs


There are no reviews yet.

Be the first to review “What Is It All but Luminous: Notes from an Underground Man”

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.