Picks and Pans Review: Is That It?

by Bob Geldof

He has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, awarded a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth and dubbed “Saint Bob” by the media. But Bob Geldof, the guiding conscience behind the Band Aid, U.S.A for Africa and Live Aid music benefits, is—insofar as he reveals himself in this autobiography—really just a regular guy. So regular, in fact, that it’s tedious going through 352 pages of his life story. The only son of a traveling-salesman father and a mother who died “before I was out of short trousers,” Bob spent much of his less-than-saintly Dublin youth causing trouble at school and dreaming of escape from Ireland. He failed his high school final exams and spent several years drifting from one dreary job to another before deciding, on a whim, to put together a rock band. Christened the Boomtown Rats (after a street gang in Woody Guthrie’s autobiography), the group shot to stardom in Britain, making lead singer Geldof a celebrity. Rats enthusiasts will probably enjoy reading about the band’s clumsy early gigs and its refusal to bow and scrape for American record-company bigwigs. But Geldof’s story-telling skills are not strong enough to sustain the average nonfan’s interest, and he never fully explores the most intriguing question his tale raises: Why does a pop star whose stated goals are simply “to get rich, get famous and get laid” suddenly devote his life to raising money for African famine relief? It is impossible not to admire Geldof’s many great achievements. This autobiography isn’t one of them. (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, $18.95)

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