What Is It All But Luminous by Art Garfunkel


Let me start off by saying that this is not a typical autobiography. It could be defined as a memoir, in a very loose sense. However, I would look at this as more of a piece of art. It’s like an extended work of poetry. Art Garfunkle writes in a series of ramblings and musings that do not always proceed in a chronological order. If you are looking for the definitive history of Simon and Garfunkle from Art’s perspective, this is not the book you want.

Instead, this book brings us into the free-flowing mind of Art as he goes through his life with its trials and tribulations. He does talk about his time with Paul Simon as they grew their careers into a multi-award winning act, but this is not the chief focus of the book. He is somewhat cagey in what he shares with the reader, he does not delve too deeply about his relationship with Simon. Instead, he mainly discusses anecdotes from his time in the band.

But you do get a sense of Art’s soul through his writing. His love for Laurie Bird is clear from the prose. You can see how he struggles as his singing voice begins to falter. How he has come to terms with being a father and husband. How he tried to find inner peace by walking across Europe. (He starts in Ireland, with a riveting description of the countryside). He gives an insight into the books that have shaped his life – these lists are fascinating to see how his literary tastes have evolved and changed.

I listened to “What is all but luminous’ on Borrowbox, where the book is narrated by Art himself. For me, this greatly added to my enjoyment of the book. Art reads his work like poetry and draws the listener in. From reading other reviews people have written, I can see why people who read the actual book did not enjoy it as much. Only by hearing the words as Art has written them do we come closer to understanding his life.


You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries catalogue here.

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