The March 2005 issue of the online magazine Being There includes a 4.5 star review (out of 5) of the new book Tori Amos: Piece By Piece by Lisa Hood-Anklewicz. You can read the review online at beingtheremag.com.
Tory Amos: Piece by Piece
By Tori Amos & Ann Powers
Reviewed by Lisa Hood-Anklewicz
4.5 out of 5 stars
"I'm trying to get back to a sense of what it means to be an artist in a community. The story teller brings forth what is hidden, and what is being erased."
For years, Tori Amos has carried a mystic in her music that permeates into her live performances and her public persona. To be a Tori Amos fan is to understand; that to understand that which is Tori takes understanding. On the precipice of the release of her ninth album The Beekeeper, Amos has unwoven some of that mystic in her book Tori Amos: Piece By Piece, which as it is with Tori Amos, is not your typical autobiography.
With the release of Little Earthquakes in 1992, Tori Amos has been one of the women who redefined what it is to be a woman in the music industry. With eight platinum selling albums under her musical belt, and the ninth about to be released, Amos and co-writer/music journalist/historian Ann Powers have unleashed a book which not only delves into the life of Amos, but the mystical goddess and god archetypes that Amos has come to know and embody in her life and work, how to marry the sacred and sexual in ones being, as well as what it is to be an artist and to fight against the powers in the music industry. In a way, these goddesses and gods become the backbone of Piece By Piece, with each chapter taking an archetype for not only a theme but a title.
If you have ever seen an interview with Tori Amos on television, not a clip or sound bite, but a real interview, then you will have a sense of the understanding required to understand her. Amos weaves metaphors, myths, legends, archetypes and even history into the conversations she has with her interviews so deeply, that it can become a discipline to follow her thoughts. Though the book is still thick with Tori's language, I think that by working with Powers to write Piece By Piece, Amos' tapestry of conversations have been translated to the page in a way that both honours Amos, and allows the average reader, not just a avid fan, to follow along.
Working your way through the pages, you move between conversations between Powers and Amos, interviews with family, friends and colleagues, and portions that are solely Amos' musings. This is not a linear life map of Amos, but rather the stories that Amos has chosen to share, with the understanding that at mid-life, creatively and spiritually her life is far from over. Amos keeps nothing back, from her childhood growing up in a strict Christian home, to her miscarriages and fight for motherhood, to her quest to understand her own being and her own mortality. Stories that may already be known in the public consciousness still provide new insight, and other stories never told before open new doors. Ultimately, Amos always comes back to her "sonic children" in all of these conversations, how the experiences of her life have affected her creative process and woven itself into her songs.
What is unique about the book are the "Song Canvas" portions. Popping up sporadically throughout each chapter, the "Song Canvas" focuses on one particular song and allows Amos to open up her paints and lay out its musical landscape or perhaps its creative muse. The Song Canvas becomes something different for each of the 24 songs - sometimes a recollection of writing the material, or how the song has changed for Amos herself over the years - but each are unique to themselves. For the fan, the Song Canvas can redefine the music they have been listening to for years. On the other hand, the majority of the songs profiled are from Amos' newest album The Beekeeper. Either way, it is an exceptionally interesting insight to the creative process.
The tales Amos, Powers and others contribute to Piece By Piece can move you into moments of laughter, moments of disgust, moments of sadness and pain, but overall, will leave anyone with a deep regard of respect for Tori Amos the artist and Tori Amos the person.