“Rock music! Death! Crazy people! Love!” promises the cover sticker, and this autobiography of Mark Oliver Everett a.k.a. E of Eels fame delivers all four in spades. Despite having the kind of skin too few that sapped the likes of Nick Drake and a tragic family tree that includes premature parental death and a suicidal sister, his tale of triumph against both the odds and his own instinctive knack for making wrong decisions is an inspirational, surprisingly breezy read, almost a handbook for hard times. Of course, a lot of this material has already been pushed firmly into the public domain via his nakedly personal songwriting, but there are still surprises for those who only know the man through his music. The beginning of the relationship with the Russian lady he would eventually marry is covered in refreshing detail, but its end is somewhat skirted around, and perhaps the book’s biggest shocker comes on its final page, where the “About the author” note reveals he’s an ordained minister, a fact completely untouched upon during the previous 245 pages. (The book’s second biggest shocker is that he has an encounter with Van Morrison on the set of what sounds from the description to be “Later…With Jools Holland” that he describes as cordial.)
A rattling good read founded on real-life tragedy and resurgence, “Things The Grandchildren Should Know” is an extension of the man’s music to the extent that if you enjoy one you’re almost certain to like the other. Surely anybody with a beating heart and a feel for troubled times would want to try both.