Picks and Pans Review: Wouldn't It Be Nice: My Own Story

updated 10/21/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/21/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Brian Wilson with Todd Gold

The most surprising thing about Brian Wilson's memoir of his life as the founder of the Beach Boys is that he is still around to write it.

A pop-music genius who wrote and produced such classics as "Help Me, Rhonda," "I Get Around" and "California Girls," Wilson drank and took drugs excessively, was tormented by doubts and demons and failed in most of his intimate relationships (while married to Marilyn Rovell, the mother of his children Wendy and Carnie, now of the pop group Wilson Phillips, Wilson was infatuated with Rovell's sister Diane).

But as Wilson and his coauthor, PEOPLE writer Todd Gold, make clear in this oddly touching biography, Brian Wilson suffered from far more than the usual symptoms of the '60s. Physically abused, taunted and consistently humiliated by his controlling father—and largely ignored by his mother—Wilson was a psychological wreck long before he became a Beach Boy. Wilson was bullied and controlled in the group too—by his brother Carl and their cousin Mike Love. (The only Beach Boy who comes off even mildly likable here is the late Dennis Wilson, who despite his rampant hedonism seemed genuinely concerned for his brother's welfare.)

Only through the intervention of controversial therapist Eugene Landy, Wilson says, has he managed to control his weight (at one point, a junk-food addiction ballooned Wilson to more than 340 lbs.), start writing music again and even do such simple things as go to the movies.

While many have questioned the clinical psychologist's pricey round-the-clock therapy methods and his later involvement in Wilson's music, Wilson sees Landy as a "business partner, teacher, adviser, manager, protector, voice of sanity, collaborator, and closest friend...all of those...and more."

Landy, Wilson apparently believes, is the one who saved him from living out an ancient Greek tragedy transplanted to a 20th-century California beach. (HarperCollins, $20)

From Our Partners