There’s nothing about Tool that isn’t shroud in mystery and secrecy. How many secrets are present on Lateralus? Are they even playing in a real time signature? Is their fifth album even going to come out at all? While the latter may never be answered, one thing that can strike the fans odd is how little they know of their frontman. It’s true, though, that Maynard James Keenan keeps a low profile when it comes to his personal life, and he has gone to great lengths to do so. A man of numerous accomplishments and ventures in his life, it only seems appropriate that a book would chronicle all of it.
A Perfect Union of Contrary Things tracks Maynard’s life through the years, from his early beginnings as simply James Herbert Keenan to the man who constantly looks down upon angry Tool fans today without so much of a blink of an eye. To call Maynard a novelty would be accurate, but along with his long-time friend Sarah Jensen, the two have managed to craft a biography that’s just as entertaining and alive as the man it focuses on.
While the content itself is broad and covers many decades and aspects of Maynard’s life, the real draw and drive of the book is within the writing. From the get-go, even in the beginnings of Maynard’s life, a biography can tend to be slow as we wait to see the character that is Mr. Keenan become who he is today and become involved with Tool, A Perfect Circle, and his numerous other projects he’s successfully been doing on and off again. There’s a sense of speed in the writing, and it constantly feels like as Maynard is moving forward in his life, you’re constantly getting the sense of that you’re moving along with him, as well.
Movement and forward momentum seem to be a part of Maynard’s life, as well, as he has been constantly moving on from experiences and seeking new things in his life. Whether it be joining the military, working at a pet shop in Boston, or having his first child, the amount of stuff going on, especially once Maynard starts to find success in his artistic endeavors, becomes startling, and truly ends up being a testament to how much Maynard is juggling at one time.
That’s not even the music related stuff, either, as everything starts coming together later in the book to how we perceive it today. Almost reading like a work of fiction, but still never venturing out of being a biography, the book flows from start to finish, offering moments of reprise in the pages in between massive events. Included within the pages are collections of photos from Maynard’s life, which proves to be helpful as they help put faces to the names and keep in check who’s who throughout.
While the actual content is worth the surprise, as it will undoubtedly be an enjoyable read for any of his fans, the actual construction of the book is worthy of praise, as well. Perhaps I’m just used to the $5 paperback editions of The Witcher books I’ve been reading as of late, but A Perfect Union feels like a real package and a sizable purchase, as well. The book is well put together, the binding is concealed in the spine properly, and at no point does it feel cheaply made. This is a labor of love and it certainly feels rewarding to hold.
All in all, A Perfect Union of Contrary Things is a fascinating look into the life of Maynard, exploring who he is beyond the entrepreneur and artist he’s seen as today. An entertaining, fast read that’s well-written, inspiring, and at times thought-provoking read that may end up having you question the motivations in your life at times and why you aren’t following your dreams. The enigmatic frontman has certainly had an interesting life, and the surprises that the book holds are what seal the deal on this; anyone who has ever enjoyed music that Maynard has been a part of should certainly give fans more of the insight they may have wanted all along.