Honest and raw, pianist James Rhodes’ memoir will require tissues and comfort food.
I first discovered James Rhodes via an article in The Guardian on creativity and finding what you love to do. The article is aptly called ‘Find what you love and let it kill you’ and talks about Rhodes’ journey to become a pianist. Inspired, I went on to find his albums and follow him on Twitter, where he offers witty comments on the world and pictures of really cute small animals. What is amazing about Rhodes is that he has lived through severe, debilitating and soul-shattering mental illness, and came out, more or less, with all his shit together, which he attributes to hard work, good support and, of course, music. This is the focus of his memoir, which alternates between being devastatingly sad and inspirationally optimistic.
The abuse Rhodes suffered at school as a child has caused many problems, both psychological and physical, in his life. This memoir is honest, confronting, and at times feels brutal and depressing. It does have a happy ending — well, as happy as one can be under the circumstances. Rhodes has a successful career, is happily married, and continues to fight his demons everyday. (He still has trouble sleeping at night, but to me that was his most relatable point because I can’t sleep either…)
I teared up in some parts of the book, although most of the time I just wanted to give the author a hug and maybe play the soundtrack — Rhodes has curated a matching playlist on Spotify — while eating some quality chocolate. I really liked this book, but you may have to be in the mood for it. It is not all sad, though, so if you’re looking for some raw insight, or maybe want to take a difficult ride but come out all right, this could be the book for you.
Now, Mr Rhodes, please come back to Sydney so I can watch your next concert!
Content advisory: Not a light-hearted read, and includes accounts of child abuse and mental illness