Patricia Kennealy,
Strange Days: My Life
With and Without Jim Morrison

(Dutton, 1992)

On June 24, 1970, before witnesses, Patricia Kennealy, editor of Jazz & Pop magazine, and Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors, exchanged vows in a Celtic pagan handfasting ceremony. A year later, he would be found dead in a bathtub in Paris, supposedly of heart failure. Strange Days: My Life With and Without Jim Morrison is the story of what led to the handfasting, and also of what came after the death of the author's mate.

It is also a portrait of an era. Kennealy attended Woodstock; she knew personally many of the most famous rockers of the time. Her favorite bands were Jefferson Airplane and The Doors and she describes several concerts by The Doors in great detail. She also recounts time spent interviewing members of Jefferson Airplane. She did not really care for the atmosphere of Woodstock and she does not use nostalgic language to describe the experience.

Drugs played a large part in the culture of the late Sixties; it is hard for us, in this "Just Say No" age, to picture that kind of reckless abandonment of self-control. Kennealy speaks without remorse of her own drug use; yes, she dropped acid and smoked marijuana, but she's not going to apologize for it, so just get over it.

Despite its title, Kennealy's book does not really focus on Jim Morrison, though she describes in detail each of her meetings with him. It is the story of those few years in her own life and how Morrison changed that life forever. She is careful to point out that she had a life of her own as a rock critic before she met him which continued after his death. She went from being a critic and editor to writing ad copy; then began writing her Keltiad novels.

She had the idea for the Keltiad series relatively early; she even discussed it with Morrison a couple of times, though she did not begin working on the series until the Eighties. Her interest in things Celtic began early; as a teenager she was fascinated with Irish mythology and stories of King Arthur. In the stacks of the libraries of St. Bonaventure University in southwestern New York (my own alma mater) and Harpur University (later SUNY-Binghamton), she found all sorts of information on those and other subjects, including Celtic paganism (which is, incidentally, where I found the same information years later). She does not mention, however, when and where she became involved with the coven to which she belonged when she met Morrison, though she does mention that they were aware of her involvement with him. It was the high priestess and high priest of the coven who performed the handfasting rite in which Morrison and Kennealy participated.

Kennealy also speaks about Morrison's long-time girlfriend Pamela Courson, who often used Morrison's name and publicly proclaimed herself to be his wife. They were never wed, though; both Morrison and Courson admitted as much to Kennealy, despite claims later put forward by Courson's family. (Kennealy hastens to point out that her own "marriage" to Morrison was never legal, nor did she ever claim so.) Kennealy portrays her meetings with Courson as, if not exactly cordial, then certainly civil, with none of the cattiness that Oliver Stone put in his movie The Doors.

Of Oliver Stone, Kennealy at first speaks with favor. She served as a consultant on the movie and even appeared briefly as the high priestess who performed the handfasting ceremony. It was only when she saw the finished version of the movie that her opinion of Stone changed drastically.

Reading this book was a very odd experience for me, as I had just finished reading Blackmantle, the seventh book of the Keltiad. Much of the material in Strange Days appears in Blackmantle in fictionalized form, so it was like reading the same book a second time. But, as Kennealy points out in Strange Days, "it is every writer's privilege and heritage to cannibalize his or her own life ... to make creative fodder." Also, as I had no knowledge of The Doors, or indeed of any of that era's music, some of the musical references made little sense, but it is not really necessary to know the music to enjoy the book.

Strange Days is a very compelling portrait of two young lovers and the era in which they lived. Kennealy speaks frankly on any number of subjects, including Morrison's alcoholism, his Miami obscenity trial and the pain and trauma of her abortion. Fans of the Keltiad, used to her lyrical and poetic storytelling style, will undoubtedly be shocked at the very graphic language she uses here. Since the book was published in 1992, it will probably be difficult to locate a copy, but it is well worth hunting up and reading. Go check the library!

[ by Laurie Thayer ]
Rambles: 30 May 1999



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