Elliott Smith and the Big Nothing
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Elliott Smith and the Big Nothing

3.3 of 5 stars 3.30  ·  rating details  ·  630 ratings  ·  65 reviews
Best known for his Oscar-nominated song "Miss Misery" from the Good Will Hunting soundtrack, Elliott Smith was catapulted to the status of indie rock star after performing at the 1997 Academy Awards. Some of his albums, XO and Either/Or among them, would become '90s classics, helping to define an understated aesthetic that owed as much to the melodic emphasis of The Beatle...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published October 4th 2005 by Da Capo Press (first published 2004)
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Probably the worst written and poorly fact checked musical biography I've ever read. Hell, if Austin was really only ten miles from Lubbock, the capital wouldn't go blue every time there's an election. But that's just me, and I don't get paid to edit musical biographies that don't even include interviews from the people closest to the person in question.
Matthew Rossana
Elliott Smith has been one of my favorite musicians for many years, and his suicide was very upsetting. When I read about this biography, I was really excited to get an inside look into the life of this artist to hopefully get some answers to his death. Instead, I got a poorly-written "semi-biography" based on stories and tales of people that barely knew Elliott and it doesn't really offer much insight at all.

The most entertaining part is the addition to the end of the book where the author defe...more
Aug 05, 2007 Jeremy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who loved his music
This author chose to spend most of his time on elliott's life rather than his tragic death. A good choice considering his death is not yet fully explained. A must read for fans.
Jul 25, 2007 Jeffrey rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: elliott smith fans
Nobody got very close to Elliott while he was alive, and this book does a good job of painting a fair (albeit distanced) portrait of the songwriter.
Molly Tolsky
If it's got Elliott's name on it, automatic five stars.
I remember sitting atop a dryer almost a decade ago riveted to a story in LA Weekly about the life and death of musician Elliott Smith, as some of the description of his personality resonated with me in ways nothing has before or since. I remember feeling naked in the laundromat seeing these things in print, though the sensation may also have been due to the fact that most of my clothes were tumbling around underneath me. The unfortunate denouement is that Smith ends up rampantly addicted to dru...more
Uit: Elliott Smith And The Big Nothing van Benjamin Nugent. Toen het boek verscheen rond de eerste verjaardag van Smiths overlijden kreeg het vooral negatieve kritiek te verwerken. Nugent, die amper drie maanden na Smiths dood op 21 oktober 2003 aan het boek was begonnen, leverde amper een half jaar later al zijn werk af: een redelijk dun boek (een goeie 200 pagina’s), dat grotendeels bestaat uit interviews met vrienden, kennissen en medewerkers van Smith. Zijn ouders en beste vrienden (althans...more
Brenda Tirado
When I first decided to buy this book on Amazon, I immediately went to Goodreads to look at the reviews before I went ahead and bought it. The reviews didn't seem so enthusiastic. Nevertheless, I purchased it. In my opinion, Elliott Smith and the Big Nothing by Benjamin Nugent is a really well written book. This book gave me insight into the type of life Elliott lived. Yeah, he did drugs and ultimately lost himself because of the fame and fortune thrust upon him by being nominated for an Academy...more
Feb 13, 2012 Scott rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: music
I just finished this book for the second time, and upped the rating to 4 stars from 3. Why?

This is a very good book, one of only a few out there on Elliott Smith. Smith has been one of my favorite songwriters and performers for years now, and is one of only a few (along with Nick Drake and Daniel Rossen, in my opinion) who can write very intense music on an acoustic guitar. Tomorrow, Tomorrow is a prime example of this.

This book taught me a lot about Smith. Reading it a second time, I was less s...more
As I had heard way before I finally grabbed the copy this time--the missing copy in the library sysmtem magically was recovered after I put the title on hold nearly a year ago--, no surprise that this turned out to be a piece of garb*&^. I had to crack up asking myself why on earth I wound up reading this poorly editted undergraduate paper--it might not be B+ even for a term paper level. The reason that I sought this out was still clear, though: there were very few documents and even fewer w...more
I was considering even reading this biography as other reviews were rather negative about the whole concept. After sitting down with it, however, I wonder if those people are out of their minds.

This is the first biography about Elliott Smith; granted, it was published a year after Smith's death, so there could be some question as to the motivation behind the publication, or question as to whether or not it was too early to write a biography about a relatively unknown man to begin with. Outside o...more
I was excited to read this, as I've always been interested to know more about Smith, but this was a huge disappointment both in content and in quality. The writing was terrible. He jumped to conclusions about what songs were about, even though several people pointed out their meanings couldn't be broken down simply. He made no effort to edit the repetitions or impertinent information out of his interviews, and didn't speak with several key figures in Elliott's life. It glossed over a lot of info...more
Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
I read this on the drive back to Milwaukee from my first visit to Austin. Basically it was not well done. Rather boring. Rather repetitive. Rather overflowing with "tortured-hero myth" tropes.

I remember stopping in Dallas to stretch our legs and see Dealey Plaza, the famed site of the JFK assassination. The strange boredom I felt while looking at, well, nothing but a patch of grass in the middle of downtown Dallas pretty much maps onto how I felt about reading this book. Unfortunately all too c...more
Based on all of the negative reviews I'd seen, I approached this book with trepidation. But in the end, it turned out to be a satisfying read. Given the fact that Smith's family won't talk about him publicly, there's likely never to be a definitive book on the man -- so this book will have to do the trick. It's got plenty of quotes from old interviews with Smith himself, along with ample input from old friends and musician colleagues. And Nugent's interpretations of Smith's lyrics were well-reas...more
Mark Delboy
I am adore Elliott Smith, but became a fan after his rise & fall. I really knew nothing about Smith and was interested in getting some sort of background into his life. The best part of this work was the details and slight analysis of Elliott's songs. The methods of recording and musical influences for each album were also interesting. I had to stop reading and go back / listen to his albums to really get a feeling of what the other was talking about, which is highly enjoyable.

Easy read. Som...more
I'm kinder to this book than some reviewers, but it does read as if Nugent assembled the text hastily, on a publisher's mandate to get a book about Smith in stores quickly. As a straight biography, it's fairly reasonable. Where I thought the book suffered is a lack of strong musical analysis (which becomes more pronounced as the book progresses). Smith only recorded five released albums in his lifetime, yet Nugent skips over many of the songs and discusses the recording process lightly, in favo...more
Colin Moon
Informative but shoddy and incomplete. I learned a lot about Elliott, was enthralled with him, as I always was, but I wish Nugent would have reined himself in and waited five, ten, fifteen years, so that the people so devastated by his death would be able to inform the over all biography. It seems rude, really, to rush to this project given the light of what had happened, and I completely feel for the people who did not respond to Nugent's requests for interview--the people closest, with the mos...more
As a story of Elliott Smith's growth as a musician and as a critique of his career, this is a well-written and interesting book. However, an in-depth biography this is not. Most of the most important and influential people in Smith's life refused to talk to Nugent for the book, and so instead he has relied on people in Smith's outer circle, even including childhood friends that seem to have no idea what kind of person Smith was from the time he hit puberty. Nugent doesn't make guesses at the tru...more
Being a big Elliott Smith fan, I was naturally excited to sink my teeth into this biography. This book does contain a lot of quality information about the artist in terms of what happened when, and how things transpired for him. Also, some of the studio information is interesting and valuable in my opinion.

Unfortunately the author just meddles with the magic constantly. I found myself rolling my eyes into my skull time after time. The author states that many people close to Elliott refused to co...more
Ryan King
I love Elliott Smith's music and have for a long time. Not sure about this biography though. There are probably better ones out there.
This book I'd recommend to any fan of Elliott Smith. Most of it is filled with stuff that most ordinary fans would already know, but there are plenty of bits of fresh info in here. My favorite part, and to me was the most interesting, was towards the end when it dove into Elliott's creative stupor over "From A Basement On A Hill", where he basically lived in the studio and supervised over every single little sound on the album. It made me wish he had lived, again, so that he could have finished...more
The author ,Benjamin Nugent, did research but was unable to reveal a lot of fact as most people wouldn't talk to him. I think it may have been too soon after his death with too many questions still left unanswered. I think Mr. Nugent may have been more successful if he had waited a year or two. Not to mention the fact that Elliott Smith preferred his life to be private, and his family and friends respected that for the most part. I enjoyed it because it was something related to a man whose music...more
Cheryl DeFranceschi
I was really looking forward to reading this book. Unfortunately, I found it to be filled with mistakes like incorrect song titles and names. I also didn't learn very much about Elliott. I'm disappointed.
Danielle Sciocchetti
good book about a talented, amazing singer/songwriter. although at times gets redundant, and doesn't really dig too deep (probably because a lot of the people closest to him weren't included in the book), it does a good job of not painting smith in the cliched sad, depressed light that one would expect. definitely has sad moments, obviously, and makes his final moments even more depressing when you read about how he was actually a really funny, joking, sweet person for most of his life. a good r...more
Mixed feelings about this book. I love Elliott, so I had to read it. My expectations was high, and I honestly got a little disappointed, mainly because the book was so poorly written.
Jul 06, 2007 Bailey rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: diehard Elliott Smith fans.
I liked it because it was about Elliott, but Nugent portrays Smith on a very superficial level. The friends and associates he interviewed for the book weren't the people closest to him - I would have preferred for him to have included commentary from his family, girlfriend, etc. - although I understand that his loved ones have kept very private about the singer-songwriter's life and death.
Matthew Novak
The book has a lot of false information and some of the information wasn't confirmed by the family, so it remains to be judged by the reader. The author looks like a complete tool in the photo on the back flap, and he seems to be making fun of Elliott the entire time he's writing it, referring to him frequently as a "tortured soul" and such. Utter garbage and disrespectful.
Liz Gillingham
I thought this book was very well thought out and put together. The writer did the best he could with the information he could gather, which I considered ample. I think some people get upset because they expected this book to give a precise answer as to why Elliott Smith died. Anyone who places such expectations can't help but be disappointed.
Oct 24, 2007 Robyn added it
Recommends it for: anyone who is interested in music
Elliott Smith may have been "emo" as today's society would put it, and at times, his depression could seem pathetic. However, somehow the world could have empathy and related directly to his word and feelings. His demise, is no surprise and I honestly think if he hadn't been killed so soon, he would have killed himself with his drug use.
Brooke Brown
Elliott's biggest contribution was his music, and this book barely even mentions or explores this fact. I was sorely disappointed with this book. The writing was extremely poor and obviously rushed, and the subject's incredible gift was hardly acknowledged. You can learn much more about Elliott by simply listening to his records.
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