Torment Saint

Torment Saint : The Life of Elliott Smith

3.7 (488 ratings by Goodreads)

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Elliott Smith was one of the most gifted songwriters of the nineties, adored by worshipful fans for his subtly melancholic words and melodies. The sadness had its sources in the life. There was trauma from an early age, years of drug abuse and a chronic sense of disconnection that sometimes seemed almost self-engineered. Smith died violently in Los Angeles in 2003, under what some believe to be questionable circumstances, of a single fatal stab wound to the chest. By this time fame had found him, and record buyers who shared the listening experience felt he spoke directly to them from beyond: lonely, lovelorn, frustrated, fighting until he could fight no more. And yet, although his achingly intimate lyrics carried the weight of truth, Smith remained unknowable. In Torment Saint, William Todd Schultz gives us the first proper biography of the rock star, a decade after his death, imbued with affection, authority, sensitivity and long-awaited clarity.

Torment Saint draws on Schultz's careful, deeply knowledgeable readings and insights, as well as on more than 150 hours of interviews with close friends, lovers, bandmates, peers, managers, label owners, and recording engineers and producers. This book unravels the remaining mysteries of Smith's life and his shocking, too-early end. It will be an indispensable examination of his life and legacy, both for Smith's legions of fans as well as readers still discovering his songbook.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 368 pages
  • 129 x 198 x 30mm | 299g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • illustrations (black and white)
  • 1408859610
  • 9781408859612
  • 59,809

Review quote

Brilliant, raw fuel for Schultz to add carefully collated detail and song deconstruction to explore a man in harrowing free-fall towards his 2003 suicide. **** * Mojo * A clear-eyed and devastating new biography ... as heartbreaking and well-crafted as one of Elliott Smith's songs * LA Times * Elliott Smith, whose soul presides over the lives of melancholy indie rockers, gets the wake song he deserves in William Todd Schultz's Torment Saint * Vanity Fair * In Torment Saint, William Todd Schultz has written his own kind of love song - an account of Smith's life that does full justice to his memory and the impressive legacy of his art ... Both persuasive reckoning with Elliott's inner demons and - much more important - a full appreciation and celebration, of his undeniable genius * Bookforum * Torment Saint will likely go down as the definitive biography of the singer/songwriter. A full portrait of a troubled man who made beautiful music and left us far too soon * Paste * A tale as complex, dense, and poetic as Elliott himself * Amanda Palmer * You can try to look for answers in his heart-rending music, but, ultimately, up until now, little has been known about his life ... Torment Saint is perhaps the first proper biography of the singer * Independent *
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About William Todd Schultz

William Todd Schultz is a professor of psychology at Pacific University in Oregon. He edited and contributed to the groundbreaking Handbook of Psychobiography, and curates the book series Inner Lives, analyses of significant artists and political figures. His own book in the series, Tiny Terror, examines the life of Truman Capote. Todd Schultz blogs for Psychology Today.
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Rating details

488 ratings
3.7 out of 5 stars
5 24% (119)
4 37% (180)
3 26% (127)
2 10% (49)
1 3% (13)
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