Alright, here's the book's premise, plain and simple: All those "Paul is dead" clues you've heard? Those were all actually about John. John prophesied his own death in 1980 at the hands of Mark David Chapman, and either consciously or subliminally implanted clues about it in every song he's written since "One After 909." Oh, and James Joyce and J.D. Salinger knew about it, too.
John had to die in 1980 because roughly twenty years before that he sold his soul to the devil for fame and fortune. Beyond all that, Mark David Chapman was created as a Rosemary's Baby-style emissary of the devil to fulfill the contract on John Lennon's soul, even before the soul-selling ever happened.
Niezgoda, whose byline calls him a "life-long Beatles fan, collector, and scholar," has written this fairly short paperback to list all the clues of the above situation, usually just in the form of commentary between quotes of other Beatles history books. For reasons that should be clear, any real Beatles fan will find this book either somewhat amusing or highly infuriating (much like Across the Universe, actually).
About the first half of the book reads like a simplistic history of the early Beatles and John Lennon's life, with only about one hilarious tie-in to the book's thesis per page. Let me give you a few examples:
"Epstein replied, 'It's all right, Mrs. Smith. I promise you, John will never suffer. He's the only important one. The others don't matter, but I'll always take care of John.' And now Niezgoda's commentary on the quote, "And that he did — almost as if it was his sole purpose in life."
"Lennon had no answer [to the interviewers who asked why the band was so popular] — or no answer that he wanted to share. Others, at least metaphorically, began to allude to 'devilish' behavior."
That's the tone of the first half of the book, which can make for a laugh-a-minute if you're in the right mindset. It exhibits the kind of insanity that's just so fun to watch, much like a rabid monkey who's escaped from the zoo or Suze Orman.
Unfortunately, just like rabid monkeys and Suze Orman, eventually it just gets scary and you feel like running away as fast as you can. When the book makes its way to talking about Mark David Chapman, it gets more ridiculous and I started to become angry with it.
The author begins his section on Chapman by collecting all the quotes he could find of people saying things like "I don't know what happened to the boy, he was always an angel" but then immediately starts detailing how completely insane he was. The problem is, he uses both as evidence of his being possessed by the devil. He was either a very normal person who suddenly killed a man (surely, it must have been the devil's work, then!) or he was an insane guy who rather predictably killed a man one day (surely, he must have been possessed!).
As Chapman goes through a thousand phases, alternating between good Christian who's a bit instable and raving lunatic who prays to Satan and reads The Catcher in the Rye like it was talking about him, Niezgoda uses both as evidence. "A great battle between good and evil was being fought over his body." No, when a man goes between explicitly insane and mentally instable, that's how crazy people are. If they were consistently crazy in front of other people, then they wouldn't be allowed to live on their own.
One large section of the book points out all the "nines" in Lennon's life through numerology, which doesn't really suggest to me that he made a deal with the devil in any way, but it's there. John and Yoko had a thing for numerology, and that likely caused several of the coincidences revolving around his later song titles and album release dates. Still, when the list consists of anything in John's life that had a 9 in it, or added its digits to make a 9, (1980 = 1 + 9 + 8 + 0 = 18 = 1 + 8 = 9. Come on.) or even if it had a 6 ("an inverted nine") you will eventually work up a huge list of numbers, unsurprisingly.
Directly after that, the book starts to talk about Finnegans Wake, James Joyce's thoroughly confusing work in half-English he worked on from 1922 all the way through 1939. This is perhaps the greatest leap of faith in the book (besides the whole Heaven/Hell God/Devil thing, which I suppose is a leap of faith for at least two-thirds of the world's population). First of all, Niezgoda lies that literary critics universally reject the work as either pretentious or stupid, then he suggests that Finnegans Wake is prophesying John Lennon's death at least forty years ahead of the murder and twenty years ahead of John making an alleged pact with the Devil. Here's a passage that he uses as evidence, with his emphasis included:
"…these munchables occur only in the Bootherbroiwth family of MSS., Bb – Cod IV, Pap II, Brek XI, LunIII, Dinn XVII, Sup XXX, Fullup M D C X C: the scholiast has hungrily misheard a deadman's toller as a muffinbell."
Wow. Okay, it included the letters "M" "D" and "C" for Mark David Chapman along with other Roman numberals and it had the word "deadman". I'm convinced, though I can't see at all why the plenty-important-on-his-own-thank-you-very-much Irish author would have had anything to do with this.
But, as tempting as it is to detail every flaw in this book (that would take another book), this is just a review. The first half is fun much as reading through the "Paul is dead" rumors is, whereas the second half is dense with numerology, Finnegans Wake, and some really infuriating passages on the death itself. So I can't truthfully recommend this for anyone. If you are a Beatles fan, it will be somewhat entertaining until it reaches its real purpose and becomes unreadable. If you like the idea as a sort of legitimate conspiracy theory, then I can only guess that you'll get what you want.
For more, you can watch these three YouTube videos that combine a disorganized-sounding radio show with Niezgoda as its guest with the relevant pictures to what they're talking about. You'll likely learn more than you would reading the book.Powered by Sidelines