Book Review: Liberty

No, this isn’t a book about the second amendment to the US Constitution; it’s a book about Liberty DeVitto. Who’s that? He was Billy Joel’s drummer for the longest time (Billy Joel lyric humor, there). I always really admired the drumming in Billy Joel’s band, because there were always so many creative percussion techniques, but the drumming never stole the show–just drove the music.

I do like the cover!

Liberty: Life, Billy, and the Pursuit of Happiness, by Liberty DeVitto, did a great job answering my questions about the percussion in my favorite Billy Joel songs (admitting here that I got less and less fond of Mr. Joel as he sounded more and more like a lounge singer to me). My favorite part about this book was that he told the story about every single song on every album up until the time Billy dumped him from the band. But, that’s decades of albums! I got to found out who did the castanets on “Say Goodbye to Hollywood,” and other important (to me) musical nuggets. It’s a real musician’s book, for musicians, which makes sense, since it was published by a musical publisher (Hudson Music – I’ll talk about that later).

I’m glad I heard DeVitto talking about the book on NPR one afternoon, or I never would have bought it, or probably heard of it. I really learned a lot about how the generation just before mine grew up, and even got some insight into why some folks love New York. And, DeVitto is brutally honest about his upbringing, his own mistakes, and his very dark side. I’m glad he had drumming, or he probably wouldn’t have made it past his 20s.

He sure wasn’t very good to women through most of his life. He barely even gave women he was in relationships with names, and had a deep sexism and disrespect for women that turned me off a lot. The good news is that he grew, eventually, and thinks his current wife is actually a fellow human being worthy of respect, not an annoying object.

So, basically, he’s not a particularly likable guy, but he probably figured that out, himself. I do give him props for naming every single person he did music with, saying how they influenced him, and giving credit where it is due. Thank goodness he had nice things to say about Karen Carpenter and Ronnie Spector, even though they were women, or I’d have quit reading!

Enough about good ole Lib. Let’s talk about the book. Whoever designed it got a D+ at best in their book design class. More probably, they didn’t take one at all, and instead someone took a Microsoft Word file, added table of contents tags, and printed that mother out. They could at LEAST have turned on widow and orphan control, though. The headings at the bottoms of pages with no words under them, combined with the single lines at top and bottom of pages, made me shudder.

Also the fonts and tiny margins. Oy. They sure chose some inelegant fonts. I’ll spare you. And TYPOS. The name of a town in Italy is spelled two different ways on the same page. Pity a poor proofreader!

Leland, you took a great picture, and Mike, the cover is nice. Joe and Rick, don’t give up your day jobs.

I’m guessing that whoever printed the book charged by the page, because there is exactly ONE blank page in the book, other than the ends pieces, which are on thicker paper. That’s right. It just marches right along from title, to a quote, to copyright (on the wrong side of the page and where, OMG, people admitted to design and typography), to a dedication, to the table of contents (crammed onto one page with some crazy tabs), to acknowledgements, the foreword by Billy, to a prologue, and finally to the book. No blank pages to rest your eyes on here! Keep moving along, folks! The text is also crammed in, since it’s both justified and sans spacing between paragraphs. That makes it dense. Thank the Maker for the rather large asterisks that separate sections. Ahh, breathing room.

I did look up Hudson Music, and they are a company that specializes in drums and drumming. They have a biography series on great drummers, of which this is one. They probably do a way better job on music instruction and such, and I salute any publisher who supports musicians, no matter how critical I may get. Still…

…Okay, this was obviously a labor of love and as close to vanity press publishing as it can get, but I want to point out to any of you who want to be authors that making your book look like a professional book is important, at least to many of your potential readers. I don’t mean just publishing snobs, but people for whom reading a book is an aesthetic as well as intellectual experience. Take the time and effort to make the book look good and showcase your words well.

And Liberty, enjoy your happy ending. I’m glad you got to publish your book. You worked very hard on it, and it shows.

Author: Sue Ann (Suna) Kendall

The person behind The Hermits' Rest blog and many others. I'm a certified Texas Master Naturalist and love the nature of Milam County. I manage technical writers in Austin, help with Hearts Homes and Hands, a personal assistance service, in Cameron, and serve on three nonprofit boards. You may know me from La Leche League, knitting, iNaturalist, or Facebook. I'm interested in ALL of you!

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