Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Reading I Met the Walrus

Friday, November 27, 2009

Reading I Met the Walrus


Last night, I settled down to read a book I'd received a while back as a birthday present from an aunt (the same one whom I mentioned in my Michael Jackson obit this past summer). I'd already started it several weeks earlier, and enjoyed what I read without finding it especially astonishing. Now I thought I'd read a little more before falling asleep, but I couldn't stop until the book - a short tome, but still about 150 pages - was finished.

I Met the Walrus is written by Jerry Levitan, and while it contains illustrations and some nifty designs to liven up the pages, most of it consists of his text. It's a memoir of sorts, focusing on one specific incident in his life: when, as a precocious and fearless 14-year-old, he infiltrated John Lennon's and Yoko Ono's hotel suite in Toronto and conducted a lengthy interview with his genial hero. In summary form, the story seemed like just a nice little anecdote; the first part of the book, recounting Jerry's fascination with the band, was entirely familiar to me - in a comfy but unexceptional way - from the reams of Beatle & me memoirs I've perused in bookstores over the years, being a great fan of the band myself.

But when Jerry's and John's paths intersect, the enthusiasm of the story suddenly becomes infectious. Jerry wavers on the line between obsessed stalker and devoted fan but ultimately falls on the latter side due, paradoxically, to both the innocence of his exuberance and the sophistication with which he gets himself on the "inside." Ultimately, he's able to wrangle a long and revealing interview with the great Beatle star, possibly the only one Lennon offered in Toronto, while a bevy of seasoned press pros salivated at the hotel door. (Jerry even gets a date with willowy Apple beauty Mary Hopkin, to boot!) By the end of this little book, I had a an ear-to-ear grin, and I'd recommend it to all Beatles fans and perhaps those who aren't as well. Jerry is obviously a lifelong dreamer, but his conclusion betrays an adult voice that he manages to keep subdued for most of the text, where he succesfully recaptures the bright but somewhat naive perspective of his youthful self. We learn of his struggles and failures later in life, as well as some rather astonishing successes (though unforgettable, the Lennon interview was not his last daliance with the big time).

Indeed, this book is actually a tie-in to a larger project of which I was unaware, but I'm thankful for my ignorance as it lent my reading a true feeling of discovery. If the title I Met the Walrus doesn't ring a bell with you either, read no more about the book, starting at the beginning if you can, and check it out whenever you have some time to kill in a bookstore. It's that rare achievement, a genuinely affecting, charming, and - no less - true "feel-good" story.

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