You don’t need to know that this book hit the stands only six months after Janis died to guess that it was hurriedly written. And you don’t have to be Einstein to figure out why.
Stringing together a series of quotes, anecdotes, and facts, many of which have previously been published, author Deborah Landau fills out her book with poorly stated tributes to the singer. To supplement the text, which runs only about 110 pages, the writer offers some weak photos and five mindless appendices. In one of these, for example, Landau theorizes that Janis may have been Bessie Smith reincarnated. In another, she presents an astrological study of her subject.
If you’re looking for a consistently weak and often ungrammatical book about the late singer, this is it. You’ll learn that Janis was eccentric, drank a lot, sang “great,” and died. You’ll also find out that, during one period, “Saturn came over . . . and hit her Mercury . . . in the 12th house, so she was worried about something” and that “Uranus in the 4th house indicates the possibility of sudden death.”
If none of this sounds particularly enthralling to you but you’d still like to read about Janis, try Buried Alive, the excellent biography by Myra Friedman. – Jeff Burger, 1975