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Friday, Aug. 24, 2007
Peter Doherty "The Books of Albion"
By SIMON BARTZ
"When she wakes up in the morning she writes down all her dreams/Reads like the Book of Revelations or the Beano or the unabridged Ulysses." Lyrics from "What a Waster" by The Libertines — the most original and vital British band since The Smiths. "The Books of Albion" is a fascinating joyride through the mind of the band's charismatic frontman Pete Doherty, its 300-plus pages made up of entries from his long-kept diary, his revelations, and there's more than a touch of James Joyce-like inscrutable meanderings in it too.
Tabloid hacks paint him as "Potty Pete" or, even worse, "Kate Moss' junkie rock star boyfriend." But it's more complex than that. Yeah, the boy is messed up, but didn't genius painters used to cut off their ears and the like?
The diaries encapsulate the history of Doherty's desire to form a band, The Libertines, then ramble on about his own descent into drugs, supermodel girlfriends and new group Babyshambles. The prose is often deliriously and beautifully poetic, even though a few pages are almost indecipherable. But don't you enjoy the voyeuristic pleasure of being shown a true artist's diary when you feel your life is so mundane? Doherty scribbles away when suffering heroin withdrawal, there are entries from when he was jailed, sketches drawn in blood, intimate photos of naked girls from his apartment, early unseen Libertines live photos that he has pasted in, lists of his favorite books and films, unpaid community-tax bills, the first chapters of autobiographical novels, even a page written by Kate Moss (she's no poet).
"How long have I been here? The place has a timeless quality; a mystical, engulfing timelessness. Sirens, screams and bells from the outside world are imagined — just as my life, my real life, is merely a dream," he writes. Pete dreams on, thank God.