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A Year With Swollen Appendices

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Provocateur, cult figure, cerebral rock star, and studio experimentalist, Brian Eno has greatly influenced an encyclopedia of styles--from art rock to punk to world music to techno to ambient music. A founding member of Roxy Music, he went on to work as a solo artist and a producer/collaborator with U2, Talking Heads, David Bowie, Sting, Bono, and others. This diary covers four recording projects in the evolution.

424 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1996

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About the author

Brian Eno

34 books64 followers
Brian Peter George St John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno RDI (/ˈiːnoʊ/; born Brian Peter George Eno, 15 May 1948) is a British musician, composer, record producer, visual artist, and theorist best known for his pioneering work in ambient music and contributions to rock, pop and electronica. A self-described "non-musician", Eno has helped introduce unique conceptual approaches and recording techniques to contemporary music. He has been described as one of popular music's most influential and innovative figures.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 92 reviews
Profile Image for gaby.
116 reviews19 followers
October 13, 2008
This book pretty much blew my mind into tiny shreds.

This book consists of Brian Eno's diary from the year 1995, and a set of swollen appendices of essays, letters, and other ramblings about everything from the lottery to generative music to screensavers to war and peace.

1995 was a year in which Brian Eno worked on some of my favorite records of all time! Including David Bowie's completely slept-on masterpiece "Outside" (which, along with Sugar's "File Under Easy Listening" and the Cure's "Faith" kinda totally got me through as much high school as I could take before dropping out), and U2's underrated "Passengers" record.

What to say about Eno. He is a truly brilliant thinker and scholar, a devoted father and husband, and completely dedicated worker. He works tirelessly, every single day. He works on 5 or 6 projects at once -- and more impressively, he never blows a deadline (never even comes close). He works in an extremely organized fashion; he sets up the architecture in which bands work. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of recording. He is obsessed with computer technology and music software. I can't imagine what occupies him now in this regard, 13 years later.

He travels incessantly. He cares deeply about poverty, and war, and is troubled by the place of artists within society, and questions the value of his work given the real problems of the world. He is a celebrity, and is as comfortable hanging out with Elvis Costello and Princess Di as he is drinking a beer by himself at home. He is an academic, and gives his time generously to his students.

Eno has more adventures in a week than any of us will have in a lifetime. He spends much of January recording with Bowie in New York, much of the summer recording with U2 in Ireland, and manages to squeeze in trips to Egypt and several to war-torn Bosnia. And yet, he is not plagued by the kind of sickness, sadness and depression one associates with many deep artists. Eno is a workhorse, modest and honest. He's there to get the work done. And he does, with equal measures of glamour, rigor and humility.
Profile Image for Cody.
506 reviews175 followers
October 9, 2021
No shit: one of the greatest things I've ever read. Could be shelved in Philosophy, Non-Fiction, Self-Help, Music, Humor, Mathematics & Sciences, Memoir, Theory, Tech...it's endless.

The way that Eno comes at any given paradigm is so unique to him that it's staggering. Plus, he drinks his own piss out of a wine bottle at one point. So there's that.

Best Book of 2019, finished on the fifth day of the year. I should've just napped until Christmas.
Profile Image for Tosh.
Author 12 books603 followers
November 4, 2007
I am a mega fan of Roxy Music and Eno's first four solo albums - including "Discreet Music." And I hate this book. Basically Eno just name drops like crazy and lives the life of someone who isn't that interesting. I was very disappointed with this book. If it was charming that would be one thing, but he's a bore.

The second part is a little bit more interesting, but barely. Look you rock or you don't rock. And right now Eno's not rockin'. He's producing Coldplay for god sake!

And one more thing: Eno wanted to make wall paper music, well, Bryan Ferry actually makes wall paper music - and he does a good job of it.
Profile Image for MacDara Conroy.
199 reviews7 followers
August 22, 2010
I value this more for its inspirational quality more than anything - it's not so much a book-as-created-thing as it is a medium for the thoughts and ideas in Eno's head. And a lot of ideas he has! If I owned my own copy (I borrowed this one from the library) I could see myself going back from time to time, turning to random pages for a bit of creative/cognitive refreshment. But it's out of print, and a scheduled reissue had failed to materialise. What a shame.
Profile Image for Jeanne Thornton.
Author 9 books152 followers
February 9, 2018
glamorous and insufferable and highly quotable. highlights: the interview about CD roms, Bono hagiographic parts, count to a billion, busted transsexual enthusiasms, the appendices, the "outside" character sheets, getting lost on the boat in Egypt. everyone needs to publish a year of diaries I think and this is a good one
Profile Image for Tom Scott.
282 reviews6 followers
May 29, 2022
May 26, 2022: I finished A Year with Swollen Appendices—Brian Eno’s Diary.

Reads like a diary of a smart, energetic, guy full of interesting ideas and singularly interesting friends (which it is).

Written in 1995 when he was 47. Intro essay conceptualizes diary from a 2020 standpoint—wish there were more of that. Love to see a 2020 version of his diary. Or one that counters each 1995 entry with 2020 perspective. Or… just an expanded essay conceptualizing the 1995 diary.

—Turner Prize, Bosnia, JAMES, U2, Bowie.
Oddly to me reading things from the 90s, a decade I enjoyed btw, doesn’t make me nostalgic for it. I think because there’s too much daily detail; before history (mine and general) sorts itself out into an official narrative.

Time capsule of nascent “Net” and digital culture that would soon swamp over the world. The sum reckoning is still to be determined? A Techno-Idealist. Starry-eyed about compute’s possibilities. Irritated by limitations. Things he likes: Stained Glass screensaver, KidPix, Stuart Brand, Koan. Dislikes: CD-Roms, “nerd” programmers, dearth of interesting/interactive (non-linear) software.

He likes women’s butts and breasts and their bodies in general.

"The Great Learning”—wonderful essay “…complex, self-consistent systems can derive from very simple initial conditions.”

Shows its age. Language, ideas, terms, sometimes rusty.

Comes with two attached string bookmarks, which is handy

A grab bag.

Listing to Another Green World writing this. Like Here Come the Warm Jets better but that’s a quibble.
Profile Image for Marley.
9 reviews7 followers
July 6, 2021
It took me to the last page of this book to understand the title which had me laughing out loud for a good minute. An extremely special and personal glimpse of one of the greatest artists of our time. Come here if you're looking to hear Eno wax on the value of art, a 4,000 year old chair, the nature of collaboration, being a father, Bono, Bowie, the challenges of charity and early computer culture. A true art history.
123 reviews41 followers
September 4, 2017
This book is so strange, there were part I felt bored to death because it was too personal but there were parts that touched me deeply and inspired me as a visual artist and left me with "oh Eno, you son of genius bitch"
It wasn't about his process in music or art as I thought to be. This book has a lil bit of politics and religions in his point of view. I loved when he talked about his frustrating long nights,that part very beautiful and melancholic. Also when he talks about books is pretty interesting but his art &music process was definitely my favorite .

Even though I didn't like that much but I'd love to have a copy. (buy me a copy please)

PS: this book is a really great reminder that geniuses has their weak doubt moments.
Profile Image for Cheryl McEnaney.
78 reviews2 followers
July 19, 2017
Loved this book. A candid, funny, interesting glimpse inside an incredibly gifted and idiosyncratic artist, futurist, and thinker. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.
Profile Image for Pearl.
240 reviews18 followers
September 20, 2022
A bit dated in 2022 (I mean this thing is from 1995) but still incredibly interesting— especially the series of essays at the back. Eno’s ideas are thrilling.

But then I’m in my Eno phase, expiration date: never, so I am fascinated by most things he has to say. Could not stand his short stories though. That’s the only time I ever thought ‘you know what its nice that 1995 is behind us’.
Profile Image for RA.
458 reviews2 followers
January 13, 2023
Sorry, not my style. Read through January, just not interesting to me at all.
Abandoned. Just tiresome.
Profile Image for Barry Hammond.
560 reviews26 followers
February 12, 2022
Musician, composer, producer, artist, activist, and futurist thinker, Brian Eno, kept a diary for the year 1995, during which time he worked with such artists as David Bowie, U2, James and Jah Wobble.
Now, almost a quarter of a century later, with this reprinting of his diary its entries still sound contemporary and futurist in their thinking. Also included as appendices are essays, correspondence and stories which relate to the ideas expressed in the diaries, which are almost a book in themselves.
Anyone interested in music, production, art, architecture, the role of an artist in the world would find Eno's ideas of great interest. - BH.
Profile Image for Timothy Neesam.
449 reviews3 followers
March 11, 2021
Brian Eno's book, A Year with Swollen Appendices is divided into two sections (three, if you count numerous footnotes throughout the diary section). Eno's diary covers the year 1995, from beginning to end, with very dates lacking entries. Some entries are little more than jottings: how the day was spent, descriptions of meals, bus rides, playing with kids. Other entries delve deeper, with reflections on what he's working on, significant experiences working with people, and commentary on events of the day. An introduction places the diary in the context (how the diary came to be, including navigating references to people he works with), and also how much has changed since the book was written.

One of the biggest takeaways is how collaborative Eno is. While the diary doesn't delve too deeply into the goings-on in the studio, the book covers working with the likes of David Bowie, Laurie Anderson, James, Jah Wobble, U2, Paul McCartney, and Pavarotti. Some of it is quite personal (and delightedly lacking in 'gossip'), Personal entries range from feeling great after a swim to feeling unwell while traveling to dinner preparations (Eno knows his wine), to building houses out of couch cushions with the kids. Events related to the ongoing war in Bosnia pervades the book, as does Eno's work fundraising, particularly for War Child, a non-profit organization that helps Bosnian children. We get riffs on technology and many, many, many ideas for projects (Eno is a human idea generator).

The second portion of the book, 'appendices,' consists of 36 essays, lecture notes, letters, mostly on music, technology, and the significance of 'art,' plus a few short stories (always with a point to make). I thoroughly enjoyed his essay about ambient electronica and his explanation of how money is divvied up in music sales. Some of the essays about music and technology went a bit over my head. The book is also an interesting slice of time, as it's pre-internet and technology like CD-ROM is au courant (I wonder what Eno's Instagram feed would have looked like if it existed at that time (collage?).

Your enjoyment of the book will depend on what you might expect to get out of the book: it's not a studio journal, but contains some thoughtful explications on the creative process, and has a great deal of personal day to day information, (as diaries tend to do, to get a sense of the person, even if it's how they see themselves).

The book is a great view into the thoughts and activities of a remarkably creative individual.
Profile Image for Ian Carpenter.
518 reviews11 followers
April 5, 2021
A skim read. Eno's diary can be as boring as anyone's and he's so thorough that in all likelihood there's going to be loads in here that you don't care about. For me: his breakfasts, no. His work with James, no. The numerous attractions he details, yes. The raising of his children, no. His installations, no. The building of his charity, no. His relationships and time in the art world, yes. Working with Bowie, yes. With U2, even more of a yes. With U2 one gets a sense of a great, fruitful and caring collaboration that's impressive and inspiring. I think it's easy to find what you love and skip the rest and in those targeted moments it's a great read.
Profile Image for fff.
50 reviews
April 12, 2019
Lille 4'er:

Astas anbefaling: Mikkel Thykier har (gennem Barthes vistnok) sammenlignet en brevkorrespondance mellem to mennesker som det at observere to mennesker se hinanden i øjne, altså vendt i profil fra ens beskuerposition, men uanset hvor tæt på vi kommer, aldrig nok til at se menneskerne i øjnene. Hvis en brevveksling kan siges at være det, kan en dagbog måske tænkes lidt som en maske, der uanset materiale (gips, voks, latex) kun kan angive et aftryk af et ansigts person og på samme måde heller ikke kan lade os se dette menneske i øjnene. Dagbogen har dog en helt anden form og en, der er til stor interesse for mig, når dagene taler sammen, enten pga. essayistiske observationer, autistiske vaner man pludselig opdager hos andre, mønstre og forandringer. Sandor Marais dagbog fra 1984-1989 skildrer en helt tydelig nedgang med små lyspunkter, der viser sig (hovedsageligt i litteraturen som en frelser, og livet som noget andet, mere virkeligt end livet), det er hjerteskærende og hård læsning. Kafkas dagbøger, håbløst paranoide, hyperdetaljerede, akavede, indforståede, virkelig komiske og observante på en vidunderlig, men også af volumen omfattende karakter, der gør det svært at overskue hele værket. Brian Eno der jo vel hovedsageligt tænkes på som musiker vælger i 1995 efter utallige års forsøg på at føre dagbog (et helt år!) at fuldende sit mål. Denne gang varer dagbogen til længere end 6. eller 7. januar og siderne skrives på små A5 papirer. Sprogligt veksler Eno et sted mellem et let litterært næsten akademisk sprog, der blander sig med nogle temmeligt talesprogsagtige men måske også lidt klodsede sætninger. Det er tydeligt at Eno læser meget, men at skrivningen ofte foregår ordløst og ikke fuld af ord. Han har et ufatteligt klart sprog ind i mellem, men også en hverdag, der mildest talt ikke interesserer mig særligt meget (hvorfor skulle det også det? det er vel næppe derfor han har skrevet denne dagbog). Men mellem nogle meget trættende perioder, hvor han mest bare arbejder (og ikke tillader os at komme helt ind under huden på arbejdet, der mest af alt virker til at bestå at bestillingsarbejde og producering) kommer der nogle varme, poetiske og virkelig fine beskrivelser om sin familie, der er meget tydelig udgør den vigtigste del i hans liv, på trods af den massive arbejdsintensitet han fører. Se fx denne dag:

"16 July: Wet but nice. Walking with the girls on Killiney beach. We sat own and Darla rested her head in my lap in the sweetest way. Collecting 'interesting' stones till my pockets are bursting and I start discreetly returning them to the beach."

Og Enos observans og humor ved denne dags nyhedssensation, der bliver helt Sebaldsk.

"19 july: A 5,000-year-old man was discovered in an Austrian glacier. Because he'd been frozen, he was still in good shape, and the scientists thought that his sperm might still be viable. Apparently 25 Austrian women have contacted the lab asking to have his child What is this? A search for genetic purity? The reasons conservatives cohere and radicals fight: everyone agrees about fears, no one about visions."

og denne også humoristiske begyndelse på en dag d. 23 november: "Swim and some exercices, felt like a dog."

Lidt som jeg har haft det vanskeligt med at blive ved med at læse Lars Noréns dagbøger blev denne her også en lidt hård og tvungen læseoplevelse, men måske også en, jeg burde have læst grundigere og måske, når nu lejligheden var til det, have læst en side dag for dag?

Enos sidste nytårsfortsæt er også fine:


REDUCE: amount of paper in house
consumption of wine
randon radio listening

INCREASE: Visits to cinema
reasons for having parties
evenings with friends
proper cataloguing
time alone
Profile Image for Jordan Phizacklea-Cullen.
306 reviews2 followers
November 6, 2020
One of British rock's most enigmatic and intellectual artists presents his 1995 diary, charting his producing albums by U2, David Bowie and James, as well as his work with War Child picking up the pieces from the then-recent Bosnian War, bookended by assorted essays on composition, the music industry and micro fiction short stories that verge on the surreal. It's a little too esoteric in parts for its own good, and many aspects may go over the reader's head, but still a illuminating peek into the world of this much-revered auteur.
Profile Image for Phil.
507 reviews24 followers
December 30, 2021
I kept waiting for something to happen during this year to justify its publication as a book other than “Brian Eno kept a diary”, but that is literally it. Because of the title, I was mostly thinking that he might have had an emergency appendectomy perhaps. But no, it simply refers to the appendices of letters and essays and short stories.

Eno is generally an interesting character, and my main takeaway from this book was just how hard he works, how early he wakes up, and how little time he spends at home. But those, alone, aren’t enough to make an interesting book.

Ultimately this was just a massive ego trip (or, more likely, an easy way of fulfilling a contractual publishing obligation).
Profile Image for Waleed.
155 reviews4 followers
June 9, 2020
I'm a huge admirer of Brian Eno and I'd wanted to read this book for many years before I finally shelled out £40+ for a secondhand copy. Sadly, it was a disappointment. This book is 400+ pages of not very interesting reflections on a not very interesting year by an otherwise interesting man. There were some perceptive comments on music technology, but you would expect that. What I hadn't expected was for the book to be so dated and for Eno's observations on politics, race, and economics to be so basic.
Profile Image for Monica.
Author 9 books18 followers
March 1, 2022
I enjoyed that immensely. To be sure, there were parts I skimmed, but much of it was so insightful—both the diary entries (entries on his travels and on recording people especially) as well as the appendices. I read this wanting to understand his concept of “scenius” better, and I certainly do now.
Profile Image for Kurt.
78 reviews25 followers
May 21, 2021
Everything I'd hoped it would be and more. (Save the largely underwhelming sci-fi shorts in the appendices)
Profile Image for Lynn.
3,171 reviews54 followers
October 9, 2022
A year long diary Brian Eno wrote in 1995. Some fun bits and very sweet including David Bowie etc. This is a 25th anniversary edition.
Profile Image for Alan.
1,078 reviews104 followers
March 7, 2009
(I originally wrote this in 2006; this version is edited from the one on my website.)

Simply brilliant. Eno is much more than a musician, and his annotated diary for the year 1995 is much more fascinating than one might expect. He is an enormously complex and busy thinker, intimately connected to the most amazing people - not just musicians (though David Bowie, U2, Daniel Lanois, Luciano Pavarotti and others appear frequently throughout the year) but luminaries in other realms, people like Stewart Brand (How Buildings Learn), playwright Tom Stoppard, and Rem Koolhaas (celebrated designer of the Seattle public library).

I've pulled out several fascinating quotes, some of them prescient, which are just a taste of the things he's written and thought about in all sorts of different realms:

Do all men leave this life feeling they've seen nowhere near enough nude people, played with far too few private parts, made a pitifully inadequate contribution to the honeyed chorus of bottom-slapping, tit-sucking, cock-pumping, belly-bulging lust issuing from the planet, and generally not fulfilled their once extremely promising sexperimental destiny?
--20 February, p. 56

If I were a government I would probably want crimes such as Oklahoma {City, that is - the federal building bombed there} to serve double duty by pinning them on people I wanted to target anyway while quickly and discreetly dispatching the real culprits.
--22 April, p. 97

{...}the face of fascism close up. 'We do not want to know this' - we do not want to know anything that might erode the pristine hardness and simplicity of our picture of the world.
--1 May, p. 105

There are many futures and only one status quo. That is why conservatives mostly agree and radicals always argue.
--13 June, p. 133

'Static' is at both ends of the movement continuum - things that are very fast and things that are very slow are both seen as static.
--25 August, p. 185

Rationality is what we do to organize the world, to make it possible to predict. Art is the rehearsal for the inapplicability and failure of that process.
--7 December, p. 272

And though I pulled no quotes from them, the "swollen Appendices" - which make up about half the book - also contain interesting longer pieces - stories, letters and essays about a host of subjects -including the evolution of cellular automata, speculations which sparked an editorial of my own.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
Profile Image for Melting Uncle.
227 reviews6 followers
June 13, 2015
What a shame this book is out of print! I got mine through inter-library loan.

This is Brian Eno's 1995 diary- notes for every day plus a bunch of extra stuff at the end (swollen appendices!)

This book is full of brilliant observations and musings about art, creativity, recording, and the like. There are also less engrossing parts about CD-ROM's and 90's politics/current events. Maybe Brian E. doesn't want the book in print because it's kind of dated?? C'mon, man! Also, there are many kind of gross parts that deal with Mr. Eno's under-the-belt stuff. The standout may be where Brian pees into an empty wine bottle and then drinks his own urine (not making this up!!)

I would love to own this book because it contains some really fascinating ideas I would like to be able to go back to. Unfortunately the cheapest copy online is something like $60. I may just type up some and put them here for reference. Many of the appendices are skimmable/skippable but don't miss the one about "Pretension"!!

Book gods- bring back this book!
Here's a a cool excerpt-
"After all other talents have been shown to be irrelevant to whether someone makes 'important' painting or not - drawing, colour theory, compositional skills, an idealogy, an eye, etc. etc. - the one thing that is left is confidence - just like with paper money. the question of intrinsic value is not even in it (athough art critics still write as though it is). All the value, as with any piece of paper currency, is that which has been conferred by artist and viewer. the artist's job becomes that of getting the viewer to agree to co-confer value - which is to say, to extend confidence. That is what is being sold."
Profile Image for Charlie.
314 reviews11 followers
August 6, 2009
This is not a read-straight-through book, even if the diary is an obvious linear narrative. I enjoyed the peek into Eno's life, but the real joy of the book for me was the set of "swollen appendices."
Profile Image for Mark.
49 reviews
December 30, 2013
It was okay. Lots on Bosnia and Serbia. I can't get the image of Eno swimming in his pool, nude, with an erection. Yikes, that kind of image is not something I want to think about while listening to Here Come The Warm Jets.
Profile Image for Michael.
407 reviews2 followers
August 4, 2021
Brian Eno is a self-described non-musician. He is a composer, producer, artist, and sound designer. He has been extremely influential and innovative figures in both popular and experimental music. The book is basically as it says, his diary of the year 1995. There is a new introduction and a list of 331 words spread over 12 pages one word to a line, that didn't exist in 1995 that are now in common usage. To give an idea of how he thinks, this except perfectly illustrates it: "Completely missing from this diary is any mention of climate change, populism, pandemics, China, just to mention a few things that occupy a lot of our thoughts now."...
"Body-shaming, cancel culture, chatlines, Chaturbate, cisgender, Creative Commons license, crowdfund, crowdsource, distance learning, DM, dox, emoji, emoticon, follow/unfollow, friend/unfriend and then all the new language around social media. This category is where there seems to have been most activity. Are humans communicating more than they ever did in the past?... And from whence arises this insatiable appetite for constant conversation?"...
"Many of these new words suggest the dissolution of a certain quality of public discourse that we have taken for granted sine the Enlightenment, which hinged on the possibility of reaching evidence-based consensus - albeit even temporarily - about what constitutes reality."
You get the sense of how he involved himself in many projects within the first 10 days of the diary: installing a new computer and his frustration with the lack of imagination in the programs; discussions with Stewart Brand (this is ongoing through the whole year, he of the Whole Earth Catalogue), visiting galleries, taking in art, traveling to Brussels for discussions about another art installation, talking with War Child about setting up a music centre in Mostar (now called the Pavarotti Music Centre as he helped raise a lot of money for it in collaboration with Mr Eno). And so it goes, he is producing music for David Bowie, U2, Robert Fripp, his own music, organizing benefit art installation shows and compilation cd's for War Child, cooking for his family, spending a lot of time with his children...He ruminates on what forces put Value on one artist and not another. He journeys to LA, NYC, Brussels, Mostar and other places. In one entry he thinks about the difference between the USA and Canada and it is between upper case and lower case culture. He cannot imagine Canadians talking about Good Government with capital letters. His wife, Anthea, comes up often in the diary as the one person most important in his life, as a muse, mentor, and manager.
In his musing on a documentary he saw about lesbian couples contemplating motherhood, he says it was a subject he thought very little of prior, but "it became clear to me that the biggest source of confusion in the whole gender topic is the assumption that the biological fact of one's body is 'hardwiring', whereas it has a very complex connection with the your behavioural and psychological style. So, though we divide physically into 'male' and 'female', we are distributed over a very complex space as regards behaviour. There are not just two possible conditions, but a different one for each of us." He wrote this in 1995. Later he muses on the juvenility of Internet conversations and methods, which was still new in 95: "It's as though we're using a language that has lots of worlds like 'cool' and 'surf' but not one for 'organism' or 'evolve' or synergy'. I really am heartily sick of the juenility of it all." He turned down an offer of US$30,000 to use his song "River" in a film, saying too many Uzis, and that it was the 15th film this year he was offered money to use a film that had an overabundance of violence and shooting scenes. Brian comes across a fact that 3,500 oak trees were needed to build just one of Nelson's top-of-the-line ships - about 900 acres of forest. Anthea, his wife, said, "I wonder what we're doing now that's as wasteful as that." He reply: 'it's still called Defence."
The appendices are additions to the diary - things spoken of in the diary such as letters, programs, essays, proposals and interviews. These flesh out his diary musings and discussions. I'll close with this last quote from near the end of the year of 1995: "Rationality is what we do to organize the world, to make it possible to predict. Art is the rehearsal of the inapplicability and failure of that process."
Profile Image for Nikolas Kalar.
170 reviews1 follower
August 16, 2021
Leave it to Brian Eno, one of rock music's most constant and consistent experimentalists, to do something different even in his memoir. Because this isn't a memoir. As the subtitle "Brian Eno's Diary" would imply, this isn't an autobiography in the traditional sense -- I was born here to this kind of family, had big moments happen here and here, here's what I'm famous for, and here's what I'm doing now. It is very literally a diary. It covers a single year in Brian Eno's life (granted a very productive year) and tracks that year with a certain day-to-day minutia.

And that hardcore dedication to the idea can be both a blessing and a curse for this diary as a reader. Some of the information contained herein feels very secondary to what you'd expect from a rock novel. There's a lot about bookkeeping and answering emails, being invited to boring dinners, and hanging around famous friends. But, just as well, there is something fascinating in watching an idea begin in January and seeing it develop through spring and blossom in summer. Watching him differentiate between the work he wants to do and the work he's been asked to create (in the form of film scores, guest lectures and education, and awards presenting) is really surprisingly intriguing. Because how does one manage the time? With a diary, of course.

Because Eno doesn't spend the entirety of this novel simply hanging out with his famous friends (though there is some of that in the likes of Elvis Costello, Bjork, the Cranberries, Derek Jarman, and Anton Corbijn), he is also working on some heavy-hitter projects with the likes of U2, David Bowie, JAMES, and Jah Wobble. And hearing his notes on his studio time -- the frustration when it is wasted or overrun by band bureaucracy and the elation when it produces something magical -- does feel very intimate and in the moment. Like you're there watching these albums being produced before your eyes.

And not only his music! Eno spends a good portion of 1995 (and this diary) working on various visual art installations for various people and places, as well as his own artistic obsessions and the larger world around him.

Because he does have interests outside of music and more general art. Many of the attached appendices are of a more philosophical nature and include treatises on culture, society, politics, history, defense spending, sperm auctions, celebrity, cosmetic surgery, fashion, and time. One of the most fascinating subjects of the book is the large portions spent sending emails back and forth to his friends regarding the conflict in Bosnia, which was raging in 1995 after the breakup of Yugoslavia. Eno, aside from being an artist, is one of our great "thinkers," as evidence here with his work on The Clock of the Long Now and the Mostar Children's Music Center.

It is also eerily prescient. With much being written about the sharing of music, the power of computers as a creative and destructive force, the harvesting of personal data, celebrity aid-giving and virtue signaling, gender binaries, and the shifting of popular culture away from the mainstream and into the more avant-garde (being "uncool" is the new "cool").

It is sometimes a slog to get there. But when it gets there, it is fascinating stuff.
Profile Image for Philippe Billé.
191 reviews3 followers
June 15, 2014
Dimanche 6 avril 2014. Brian Eno affirme avoir tenté plusieurs fois de tenir un journal personnel, sans jamais réussir à mener l'entreprise au-delà du 6 janvier, mais il y est enfin parvenu tout au long de l'année 1995. L'ouvrage, intitulé A year with swollen appendices : Brian Eno's diary, a paru dès l'année suivante, puis a été traduit en 1998 sous le titre Une année aux appendices gonflés : Journal. C'est un fort volume, de près de cinq cents pages, dans lequel le journal à proprement parler est suivi des «appendices» en question, une quarantaine d'essais sur différents sujets artistiques et culturels, écrits la même année. Ce livre m'a été offert voilà quelques mois par un ami qui le possédait et n'en faisait pas grand chose, et j'étais curieux de le lire parce que j'aime bien les journaux, et surtout parce que je suis fan du musicien Eno. A vrai dire je n'ai pas trouvé dans ces pages autant que j'en espérais, il s'est avéré que bien des aspects de la vie familiale, professionnelle ou mondaine de l'auteur ne m'intéressaient pas beaucoup. Mais j'évoquerai ici quelques uns des points qui ont retenu mon attention.
Il y a dans les premières pages, sous le titre «Les gens», une présentation par ordre alphabétique des personnages les plus récurrents, les proches de l'auteur, sa femme, ses deux petites filles (3 et 5 ans), une fille plus âgée née d'une première union, des artistes, principalement Bowie et des membres de U2, etc.
Eno fait un bel éloge d'un livre qu'il a lu en avion, livre dans lequel «on a envie de souligner chaque phrase afin d'y revenir et de la savourer de nouveau» (10 janvier). J'aime à la fois l'exagération du propos, et le choix du soulignement de phrase comme symbole du plaisir de lecture.
Oh, comme souvent il y a là pas mal de phrases que j'ai moi-même soulignées pour le plaisir de m'y reporter, mais dont je ne parlerai pas ici parce que je n'ai rien de spécial à en dire.
Bowie, qui ne m'avait jamais fait rire, m'amuse beaucoup par la révélation intempestive faite à Julian Schnabel (rapportée le 11 janvier) : comme le peintre lui déclare adorer la musique d'Eno, Bowie lui signale sans ménagement qu'Eno, lui, n'aime pas ses tableaux.
Il y a au 10 juin une liste courte mais intéressante de «Gens que je connais qui sont morts», et au 9 août une autre, répondant à une des «stratégies obliques» dont l'auteur est familier : «Fais la liste de tout ce que tu es». Cela commence donc par «Je suis» : «un mammifère, un père, un Européen, un hétérosexuel …» Parmi la trentaine de réponses se glisse «un masturbateur», qui amuse. Cette liste est reproduite au dos de la couverture. Eno évoque de nouveau la manipulation le 24 septembre en la définissant comme le fait de «se raccrocher à la seule chose à quoi on puisse se fier».
Il prend des vacances au Cap-Ferret du 12 au 21 août et il y revient du 19 au 25 septembre. Il cite peu d'endroits précis mais on a quelques reflets de pinèdes et de grandes plages, quelques échos de taxis et de restaurants. Ces pages raniment ma méditation rituelle sur les moments où mon trajet existentiel et celui d'une de mes icônes ont pu s'approcher, ou se croiser. J'y trouve aussi deux citations pour ma collection de phrases sur Bordeaux. Le 19 août Eno compare différents vins, et semble préférer les bourgognes aux bordeaux.
Il boit un peu de sa propre pisse, le 26 août. C'est le genre d'expérience qui ne me viendrait jamais à l'idée, je n'ai pas la joie du pipi.
Il évoque le 3 septembre la notion des «problèmes mineurs insolubles», qui me plaît. Il donne l'exemple d'une petite dette envers une étrangère, jamais réglée depuis douze ans, mais il y en a de toute sorte.
Il retranscrit le lendemain la réflexion la plus drôle du livre, un bon mot de sa fille. Elle affirme avoir compté jusqu'à un milliard. Eno lui répond qu'il ne la croit pas, qu'il faudrait trop de temps. Embarrassée, la petite explique : «En fait, je suis passée directement de 59 à un milliard».
Le 22 septembre il s'amuse à calculer son âge en jours (17.398) et celui de quelques proches. Du coup je m'interroge sur le mien. J'ai la flemme de faire le calcul précis mais je sais que j'ai maintenant vécu plus de 20.000 jours. Je commence à savoir comment ça se passe.
Le 5 octobre, il se demande pourquoi certains étrons flottent. Un médecin m'avait dit que c'étaient ceux qui contenaient du gras, signe que l'organisme éliminait bien. Je ne sais pas si c'est vrai, mais comme la question est assez dégoûtante, je n'essaierai pas d'en savoir plus.
Deux jours plus tard, il donne une de ses nombreuses interviews, celle-ci au magazine Country Life. Voilà un numéro que j'aimerais avoir.
Je remarque dans la traduction, au 30 octobre, cet alexandrin de hasard : «Je veux passer du temps sur mon propre travail».
Le 5 novembre, Eno entend une Mexicaine déclarer à la radio que «par la nourriture, la femme pénètre le corps de l'homme». Je ne sais au juste ce dont elle parle, mais je pense à l'impulsion nourricière que l'on observe souvent chez les personnes du sexe, le penchant «Action contre la faim» de la psychologie féminine.
Parmi les essais réunis en fin de volume, il y en a deux sur le genre de musique dont Eno a été le pionnier : «Ambient music» et «Musique générative». Autant je suis insensible à ses premières musiques, dans le style rock ou pop, autant j'admire certains de ses «paysages sonores», au premier rang desquels des oeuvres comme Thursday afternoon, Discreet music, ou la première Music for airports (mais pas les trois autres), ainsi que d'autres compositions plus brèves.
Il y a des passages captivants dans une certaine «Lettre à Petra», où il rapporte ce qu'il a appris sur des objets égyptiens anciens, vus dans la réserve d'un musée : un chat embaumé, comme les Anglais du XIXe siècle en avaient importé des milliers à seule fin de les broyer pour en faire de l'engrais, de grandes sculptures en granite noir qui avaient servi de ballast le temps d'un voyage et avaient été jetées à l'arrivée dans les champs autour du port de Plymouth, un «petit siège de bois comme on pourrait en trouver aujourd'hui chez Ikéa»...
Il y a une discussion sur «la canonisation de Basquiat». Eno «aime beaucoup» les oeuvres de ce peintre et les défend contre les attaques d'un critique qui les juge «infantiles et simplistes», avis que je partage. Mais il reconnaît, si je comprends bien, que Basquiat a surtout eu le talent d'incarner un certain esprit du temps.
Dans les toutes dernières pages figure une courte notice autobiographique, où je pêche encore une phrase pour ma collection de citations en «Je suis né».
J'ai quand même tiré quelque profit, de cet ouvrage.
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