Paul Is Undead by Alan Goldsher
Published by: Simon & Schuster
Published on: June 2010
Page Count: 310
My Reading Format: Audiobook won as part of a promotion
Audiobook Published by: Blackstone Audio
Narrator: Simon Vance
Audiobook Length: 7 hours 50 minutes
Available Formats: Paperback, eBook, and audiobook
If memory serves, it was the night that John Lennon was murdered that I found out that my mother never really cared that much for The Beatles. I have no idea why, but I was disappointed. After reading Paul Is Undead, I am positive that her opinion of this version of The Beatles would be even worse because of:
* An undead amount of cuss words
* An undead amount sexual content
* An undead level of violence, mayhem and gore
If she ever reads this review (Hi, Mom! I love you!), I know she will have a bone or two to pick with me afterward. Why? It’s those very same elements that made me love this book (Mom, read no further if this bothers you. I understand. Sometimes you’d just rather not know.).
There were a couple of additional things that I noted throughout that might make readers uncomfortable:
* An undead amount of Zombie gas (this truly was unappetizing)
* Oddly constructed undead instruments (especially while eating a chicken salad – cannot recommend)
* An undead encounter with Jesus (no further explanation required)
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Paul is Undead is a mashup of Beatles history and zombies told in the format of an oral history. It tells the story of what might have happened if John Lennon were reanimated in the hospital nursery. Alan Goldsher, the narrator, not the author, is a journalist who has spent several years, as well as documented amounts of money and travel time tracking down each of the Beatles and those closest to them in order to compile a comprehensive history of the band. His adventures and the way he pieces together each character’s story create one of the wildest literary rides I’ve ever taken.
What was interesting to me, as someone with only a light pop culture level knowledge of The Beatles and the music scene at that time, was checking Wikipedia to read about the characters who were/are actual historical figures. While I enjoyed learning about new people, I can only imagine how much funnier this book would be if you were already familiar with them in reality. You would then be able to pick up on nuances that must have gone completely over my head (like listening to the Howard Cosell scene if you did not know who he was). There was only one person in this novel that didn’t work very well for me. That was Mick Jagger. Keeping in mind that I was born in the early 70s, when I think of him I think of those god awful white sweat pants in the “Start Me Up” video. I cannot help it. The idea of him wagging his hips kind of grosses me out as a result. He just never had sex symbol appeal to me. However, had he not been a zombie killer, the hilarious interview with Keith Richards wouldn’t have made the book. Believe me, Keith Richards was worth it.
I’m not sure if I became a fan of Simon Vance or audiobooks first. Chances are it was at the same time. As much as I’ve enjoyed his other work, in this performance he reached the toppermost of the poppermost. Even though Chemistry for Beginners had some humorous moments, I really didn’t know just how well suited he is for comedy. His timing and intonation were spot on. He gave a distinct voice to the characters that even hinted at their deeper personalities (John sounded self-absorbed; Paul sounded like a pretty boy). The way those voices melded together to form the narrative as written by Goldsher was in and of itself hilarious. How he did it all of this is truly beyond me. I can only say that I’m happy to have experienced it.
I made light of it in my Cautionary Note, but there is content in this book that may offend some readers. Of anything that might offend, the language is the most prevalent. There is a great deal of swearing in this book. This is no surprise to my regular readers, but I love some good cussing. I even, I’m pretty sure, got to hear Simon say my most favorite of all curses for the first time during this audiobook, I quickly lost count of the number of times my very least favorite curse was used. This would be the word that starts with a “c.” Ladies, you know what I’m talking about. I was pretty much desensitized to it by the end. Whether that is good, bad, or indifferent I cannot say. It just didn’t matter after a while. It was used as a generalization, never with malice (outside of undead malice), which makes a difference I suppose. I did find that by adding the word “right” in front of any cuss word makes it less offensive and at least 5 times funnier.*
Paul is Undead pulled me in to its world nearly immediately. That very first night I had to write about it on order to put it aside so I could fall asleep. It just made me so happy. From Howard Cosell to the interview with Allen Klein, I was almost always laughing, continuously entertained, and often disgusted. During the queasier parts, the humor held everything together, making it all palatable. If you have a strong stomach, aren’t easily offended, and are looking for a good literary time, I wholeheartedly recommend Paul Is Undead.
*It saddens me to no end that I’ll never be able to use the word shite or phrases such as “right bastard.” They are hilarious, but completely out of place when said by a Midwesterner like me.