Freddie Mercury Bio (Book Review)

Mercury cover image

Mercury: An Intimate Biography Of Freddie Mercury

Author: Lesley-Ann Jones

Copyright 2011

$26.00 Hardcover (No paperback expected for another few years)

Touchstone Books

ISBN-13:  978-1-4516-6395-2

(The above information is for the U.S. edition.)

On page 226 of the U.S. edition of Mercury, author Lesley-Ann Jones writes:

Freddie revealed different aspects of himself to different people, but never his whole self.

This could be said of most people.  It’s one of the ways we create boundaries.  At the same time, how well we consciously know ourselves is debatable.

We should start by saying Mercury is a unique biography.  Its subject had predictable personal issues — balancing an artist’s intellect with a lack of formal education, being an object of public curiosity, etc.  The author gives us a sense of a real person — if not the real person — behind a public image.

Out of respect for a public figure who cannot comment on the book because he was deceased before it was written, we should think carefully while reading this account.  A “Consultant Psychiatrist” is quoted, and no explanation is given for the reason that psychiatrist is considered an authority or allowed to comment.  If Dr. Cosmo Hallstrom never met Mr. Mercury, he is reaching conclusions based on things he has heard or read secondhand.  If he was Mr. Mercury’s therapist, even after his patient’s death he is showing disrespect for doctor-patient confidentiality.  If we go with the former possibility, the title of Consultant Psychiatrist suggests his observations are based on a scholarly(?) version of the game Telephone.

Quoting someone who speculates on a deceased person’s emotions is one of the book’s few weak points.  Another is the inevitable conflict over which labels to describe the subject’s sexual orientation.  Some people said Freddie Mercury was gay and just happened to be intimate with a couple of women named in the book. Others insisted he was bisexual.

Disclosure:  I identify as bisexual, and one of the reasons I read this biography is I feel isolated in a world where people like me are possibly the Silent Majority.  I knew about Freddie Mercury’s gay image and his relationship with Mary Austin.  Labels be darned, I was going to read this book.

Sadly, the less professional aspects of a celebrity biography are often the strongest selling points.  Mercury contains some speculation and some sensationalism.  However, the author is enlightened on the topic of creative persons’ horror.  Freddie Mercury had genius issues.  He saw shades of grey when most people saw black or white, and he was further isolated from society by the fact that he needed protection even while using a public restroom.

If you read Mercury, you’ll probably have mixed feelings toward the person profiled in the book.  A celebrity’s isolation from average people isn’t fun, no matter how glamorous it looks.  It damages perspective, and for some wealthy public figures money, drugs and sex are the most accessible forms of comfort.  Considering everything, it looks as if Freddie Mercury actually did okay.


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