Saturday, April 22, 2017

Michael Nesmith. Infinite Tuesday. Crown Archetype Press. 2017. 306 Pp.

Few artists have had an impact on more forms of creative endeavor than Michael Nesmith, although he has flown under the radar for most of them, with the exception of one of his earliest, the stint he served playing one of that pre-fab Four, the Monkees, on TV in the mid 1960s. Fans of that short-lived but influential show may be disappointed that Nesmith does not spend much of the book reminiscing about fun times with Davy, Mickey, and Peter.  Instead, Infinite Tuesday is an unflinchingly self-critical and very literate exploration of his random walk through the creative process, and of the influence fame and wealth, which visited and deserted Nesmith several times through his long and winding career, and the dangers of the self-delusion that he very accurately dubbed creative psychosis.

Nesmith's path took him from a Texas childhood, to a minimally successful stint as a Los Angeles folk singer on to the Monkees adventure followed by an economic collapse that nonetheless a series of beautiful country-rock albums. A failed attempt to run a record label led to a move to Northern California that jump-started an entirely different career. With Pacific Arts, Nesmith essentially invented the music video and the video rental industry. He narrowly avoided becoming producer for MTV, produced one of the great cult movies of all time, Repo Man and, in recent years, crafted and patented one of the earliest 3-D virtual reality environments.

Nesmith had an affinity for acquiring remarkable companions for his journey, and one of the richest parts of the book is his reminiscences of those friends, including Hitchiker's Guide author Douglas Adams, John Lennon, Jack Nicholson, Johnny Cash, director Bob Rafelson, Island Records maven Chris Blackwell, and Christian Science teacher Paul Seeley. Nesmith also delves into the roles that strong women have had in his life, starting with his mother, Bette Clair McMurry, who raised him as a single parent and later amassed a fortune as the inventor of Liquid Paper, and continuing with his three wives, all of whom he portrays as wonderful partners who he failed as outfall from his creative psychosis. What might be most unexpected in this narrative is that Nesmith views his life, and all of the creative turns it took, as essentially a spiritual quest. However, that theme should not deter those wanting a good read, as Nesmith is an exceedingly funny and entertaining writer, and Infinite Tuesday is worth reading for anyone interested in the paths popular culture has taken in the last half-century.

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