4 thoughts on “Where I Am

  1. Hi William,

    I bought and read “Torment Saint” and I came here to give you my 2 cents. Your book is interesting and brings a fair share of insights that I had not found elsewhere (especially about Elliott’s early years in Texas, Portland, and at Hampshire College). However, I feel that your treatment of Elliott’s later years is much more incomplete and inconsistent.

    Here are some aspects of your book I took issue with:

    – You were unable to get interviews with a few key people: members of Elliott’s family (the Smiths, the Welch family), Valerie Deerin. I thought your description of Deerin was very harsh overall. You seem to take issue with the people who call Chiba nasty things, but you certainly don’t hold back much with Deerin.

    – The last few chapters feel like like an argumentative essay where you are trying to prove that Elliott Smith committed suicide, that Chiba was wonderfully supportive to the very end, and that there is no doubting these two points. You make a good argument (personally I think Elliott did kill himself) but to discount the possibility that there was foul play is wrong. Doubt remains. We will never know with absolute certainty.

    – I believe some of what J.Chiba says, but not all of it. Much of your book seems to present her personal viewpoint. There are various accounts of her behavior that don’t paint her in a positive light (I can link those for you if you would like). Including quotations/interviews from these people would have yielded a more balanced viewpoint overall.

    – A lot of comments/statements in your books seem to be based on hearsay and unnamed sources. That is an obvious weak point and gives some of these statements very little credibility. I have provided a few examples below:

    “According to two different people I spoke with who were at the gig and deeply in the know”

    “One night he actually dreamed of Courtney Love, according to a different friend.”

    “In fact, according to another close friend, Smith was obsessed …”

    – Stylistically (and other reviewers have remarked this), I did not like the interweaving of Elliott’s lyrics with your own sentences. It doesn’t work well and feels contrived.

    Despite the issues I have highlighted, I must still thank you for writing the book as it brings some additional information into deciphering the mystery of Elliott Smith’s personality and life.

    1. Thanks for your note. A few quick responses. You aren’t right about the people you say I didn’t talk to. There were many people I spoke with off record. On those occasions I can’t name them, of course. So when, for instance, I cite a friend or something, that is based on an actual interview, even though I don’t or can’t cite the source. Also, I don’t interweave his lyrics with my own sentences. I interpret the lyrics at times, yes, but that’s different. I just happen to believe the lyrics are maybe the best source for some of what he was feeling so I try to make sense of them, just as someone would interpret, say, poetry if writing a biography of a poet. I see Elliott as a poet… As for Chiba, I don’t think she killed Elliott and since writing a biography requires taking a stand on a number of questions, I took a stand on that one. I do not see any other scenario as at all convincing. And as you know, I talked with the coroner at great length… Anyway, I’m glad you got something out of the book. Take care.

      1. Thanks for the reply and clarifying some of the points I brought up.

        The fact that so many people won’t make their statements public, or go “on the record” is something that comes up time and time again in articles and books about Elliott Smith. It certainly contributes to the continuing myth of Elliott Smith.

        Maybe because you’ve been in direct contact with these people (folks who were real friends/family/acquaintances of Elliott) you don’t share this sentiment and perspective, but it is frustrating for readers who seek clarity and aren’t sure where some of these statements originate from.

        As a final note, do you know if it’s true that Jennifer Chiba will eventually publish a memoir of her life/experience with Elliott? That would also be interesting to read for sure.

  2. There are some people who just prefer to keep their memories to themselves. They don’t feel any obligation or sense of duty to share. And I can totally understand that! Personally, I don’t see any lack of clarity. I think Elliott’s life is pretty well known now. There are no huge mysteries or major revelations remaining. Some people may want to invent mysteries, but you can invent mysteries about anything, right? And I don’t believe Jennifer Chiba is working on any memoir at present. She’s pretty much told her story, a lot of it in my book. Plus, I really don’t think there will be any other books on ES for quite some time. He’s not exactly Lady Gaga, and publishers are getting way more choosy about what they bring out. It’s about sales. And if you stop, say, 50 people on the street, chances are decent that not a one has ever even heard of Elliott, unfortunately.

    Actually, come to think of it, there is one mystery about Elliott, and its this: how he was able to write so many unspeakably gorgeous songs. It’s the mystery of artistic creativity…

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