The Southern Voice is a weekly gay and lesbian newspaper based in Atlanta, GA. Their July 8, 2005 edition includes a review of the book Tori Amos: Piece By Piece.
You can read this review at southernvoice.com or below. This review also appeared in the July 15, 2005 edition of the Washington Blade:
Piano of the gods
Singer-songwriter Tori Amos pens her autobiography with passion and strong sense of personal trials in 'Piece by Piece.'
By BO SHELL
LEAD BY THE PASSION found in her sometimes playful and often ethereal songwriting, Tori Amos approaches "Piece by Piece," her first detailed biography, with a grave need for exploration.
With the help of long-time music critic Anne Powers, Amos takes readers on a journey that is long and sometimes even tragic. The book reads at times like an encyclopedia of mythical gods, goddesses and age-old archetypes that have deeply influenced her psyche. But the text is also romantically worded and sometimes turns outward into a how-to guide on surviving motherhood and the music industry.
Comprised mostly of extracted conversations between Powers and Amos as well as narratives written by Amos alone, the autobiography is as non-traditional as the singer's career path. The book is also sprinkled with interviews of people Amos holds closest: her management, musicians, husband and other allies in her personal and professional life.
The mix of first- and third-person narrative is served on a plate of spiritual and political undercurrents ranging from the role of women in entertainment to her Cherokee grandfather's traditions of shape shifting and appreciation for the Earth Mother.
The mix in "Piece by Piece" ultimately provides a recipe for a delightful foray into Amos's perspective as a 41-year-old mother and musician. Her viewpoint is so well expressed, even die-hard fans may find it a little intense.
THE BOOK'S PURPOSE is clearly not simply to tell a story, but to inform fans and readers interested in studying the compositional process of the timeless traditions to which Amos still holds tight through her own life transitions, including motherhood.
Without fairly extensive working knowledge of Greek and Roman mythology, the Magdalene, biblical texts and Native American lore, readers looking for a general biography may be left flipping past pages and pages of in-depth discussions and discourse on how each affects Amos's plight.
The back-stories of legendary myth effectively establish a theme that carries readers through the book, but hope for continuity would not be lost without it. Mythological characters are recalled most effectively and given appropriate context in Amos' candid writings and interviews.
More distracting than even the most complicated myths Amos cites are Power's italicized sections of wordy babble that should serve to sew the book's pieces together but generally just complicate matters with parallels to the archetypes light readers and most fans are trying read around.
Amos's remarkable storytelling ability leaves little need for further explanation or transition.
But the most poignant stories Amos shares are of her struggles with fertility. The language is colloquial, but gripping. In spite of the somber subject of her numerous miscarriages, the deep look into Amos' perspective makes for a surprising page-turner. To see her transition from the bottom of the emotional barrel to becoming the mother of healthy daughter Natashya is truly inspiring.
NOTICEABLY ABSENT FROM "Piece by Piece" is any thorough discourse on Amos's fan-base and its strong roots among gay listeners. Only once, early in the discussion of her history, does Amos talk about her beginnings in the gay lounge circuit in Washington, D.C.
"The gay community embraced me just as I was working through my own sexuality and gave me a safe place to deal with that," Amos says in conversation with Powers. "I remember the way waiters, specifically one called Joey; he showed me how to dress, how to push a Joan Fontaine look, and how to give a blow job on a cucumber, swathed in cashmere, of course -- this way he could check for teeth marks."
From her youth as the frustrated granddaughter of holy-rollers on one side and full blooded Native Americans on the other, to her brief stint as a jagged '80s rock queen and bouts with executives at Atlantic Records, Amos learns to laugh out loud.
As readers ride through Amos' journey toward recognizing that she will never be what she is not, the singer can justifiably add a new title to the list of things that she is: a singer, a songwriter, a feminist, a visionary, a mother -- and now, an accomplished author.