Phair's assessment is currently online and will appear in the print edition of this Sunday's book review; while the once-feminist icon has written some true musical bombs lately, she's astute in her review of Richards' writing (and his personal life, for that matter). Phair's first album, after all, was a response to the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street, so she's spent decades pondering the Stones.
In her review, Phair declares that Richards puts the "joie in joie de vivre" and that his book "delivers recipe after recipe for everything rock 'n' roll." But it's her evaluation of Richards' morality that really stood out to me:
Keith's values were set early and have remained consistent to a remarkable degree. Disloyalty is about as low as you can go in his book, one step lower, even, than screwing up the music. Women? Take 'em. Vices? First round's on me! But never, ever, EVER cross a mate.
It's a great observation, because it points to Richards' inherent hypocrisy, which Phair also comments on later and (given the trajectory of her own career, moving from indie-darling to commercial-and-movie-soundtrack-er to Bollywood-appropriater) knows something about. Richards clearly crossed his own mates in his lifetime, stealing and then marrying bandmate Brian Jones' girlfriend and sleeping with Marianne Faithfull while she was still bedding Mick Jagger. Phair argues that Richards is so "hilarious" that this hypocrisy can be overlooked. ("I got tired of jotting 'hahahaha' and 'LOL' in the margins," she writes.) Maybe that's true.
Then again, maybe it's just fame that excuses all indiscretions--both personal and professional. After all, Phair's last album was hideous; now, she's writing for the Times.