________________ CM . . . . Volume IV Number 15 . . . . March 27, 1998

cover Building a Mystery: The Story of Sarah McLachlan & Lilith Fair.

Judith Fitzgerald.
Kingston, ON: Quarry Press, 1997.
240 pp., trade paperback, $19.95.
ISBN 1-55082-190-3.

Subject Headings:
McLachlan, Sarah.
Lilith Fair.

Grades 12 and up / Ages 17 and up.
Review by Irene Gordon.

* /4

This biography of Canadian singer, song writer Sarah McLachlan contains the kind of details on her life that readers would expect in a biography. The author, poet and music critic Judith Fitzgerald, quotes samples of McLachlan's lyrics and offers commentary both on the lyrics and on reviews and articles written by others. The book is well-illustrated with photographs.

      In this reviewer's opinion, however, the book suffers from two major failings. The first is that too often the author writes pages of material that have little or nothing to do with McLachlan. The second is that the author was not able to settle on one style of writing and maintain it throughout the book. For example, the book begins with a 25-page chapter which has as much or more to do with author's own life as it does with Sarah McLachlan. It is a rambling, self-indulgent description of Fitzgerald's attempts to track down McLachlan's birth mother and of how Fitzgerald came to be a McLachlan fan. The information in this chapter would more suitably be contained in a brief introduction to the book.

      As for lack of unity in style, the author veers from the turgidity sometimes found in academic writing to the slangy informality of popular magazine writing. Compare the extremes illustrated by the following paragraphs from Chapter 2.

Self-scrutinizing, quasi-cryptic, and excruciatingly confessional, the lyrics of her songs unquestionably push all the right buttons with her target audience, Rainer Maria Rilkeûskimming listeners given to pondering the imponderable in search of a musical soundtrack with which to fill the inexpressible gaps of their disaffected lives, an emotional sounding board allowing them to gauge their personal growth (or lack thereof) and, most importantly, a point of express entry for therapeutic sessions with their equally narcissistic psyches. (page 35)

Clearly, McLachlan possessed the soul and temperament of a poet; clearly, her back-uppers hadn't taken the time to know it; and, clearly, one doesn't require an Einstein injection to figure out the boys in the band were a few tracks short of a CD. (page 50)

Not recommended except to the most devoted of Sarah McLachlan fans.

Irene Gordon is a teacher-librarian who retired last June after spending 14 years working in a junior high school library in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She is presently co-editor of the Manitoba School Library Association Journal and trying to establish a new career as a free-lance writer.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © 1998 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364