PERFORMING ARTS

This Thing Called Life: Prince’s Odyssey, On and Off the Record

St. Martin’s. Oct. 2020. 352p. ISBN 9781250135247. $29.99. MUSIC
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Karlen’s grandparents lived in the same Minneapolis neighborhood as a young Prince Rogers Nelson, leading to a chance meeting between the two boys outside a Dairy Queen. Years later, that encounter led Prince to pick Karlen to profile him for several Rolling Stone cover stories. For decades, Prince continued to confide in Karlen over late-night phone calls as the superstar retreated further into his Paisley Park fortress. The result of those confidences is a meandering biography and an account of what it was like to be Prince’s almost friend. Karlen admits that Prince’s mercurial personality and penchant for myth-making made him unknowable. Unfortunately, he does little to reveal much else about the provocative musician, filling this void with obscure references and cringe-worthy language, such as “Instead, let me tell you about where I felt aspects of his spirit.”
VERDICT Karlen’s writing is too often barely coherent. Even devoted fans should skip.

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