Category Archives: Autobiography and memoir

Coal Black Mornings by Brett Anderson review – a memoir not just for Suede fans

A rich evocation of the singer’s youth, parents and life in a council house

Brett Anderson, lead singer of Suede, has been thinking about his band’s backstory for a long time. In 1994, less than a year after their self-titled LP had become the UK’s fastest-selling debut since Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Welcome to the Pleasuredome, he told a journalist from New Musical Express: “The history of this fucking band is ridiculous. It’s like Machiavelli rewriting Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. It involves a cast of thousands. It’s always been fiery and tempestuous and really on the edge and it never stops. I don’t think it ever will. It would make a fucking good book.”

Coal Black Mornings is not that book. That’s to say it’s not, in his phrase, “the usual ‘coke and gold discs’ memoir”. Rather it’s a pre-history, a ruminative and often gorgeously written meditation on his early life: before Suede released their first single; before, without having released a note of music, they appeared on the cover of Melody Maker hailed as “The Best New Band in Britain”; before they were yoked into a still violently argued debate about national identity and guitar music. Anderson, who describes himself as “hunched over the fossils of my past”, claims early on that he’s writing “a book about failure”.

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Source: gad

Educated by Tara Westover review – escape from a Mormon fundamentalist family

A coming-of-age memoir that chronicles a young woman’s efforts to study her way out of a tough childhood in Idaho and find herself through books

We hear a lot about the edges of the US these days. Geographically, these places might be in the middle of the continent, but they are on the periphery of the country’s economic life, and often the social one too. The people who live there are desperate and pitiable, we are told, just as much as they are brutal and superstitious.

Tara Westover’s memoir is about being from just such a place and people. She was born to Mormon fundamentalist parents in Idaho, the youngest of seven. Her father Gene was the prophet of their small family, convinced the world was going to end at the stroke of the millennium. (When it did not, the author observes, the “disappointment in his features was so childlike, for a moment I wondered how God could deny him this”.) He does not believe in sending his children to school, but does believe that dairy products are sinful, owing to a message from God. “Isaiah doesn’t say which is evil, butter or honey,” is how he delivers the good news. “But if you ask, the Lord will tell you!”

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Source: gad

Brave by Rose McGowan review – Hollywood’s avenging warrior speaks out

This may not, in time, be the best book about the Weinstein scandal, but it will surely remain the most visceral – anger burns from every page

In the week that I read Rose McGowan’s memoir, Brave, I went to see All the Money in the World, the Getty biopic that originally starred Kevin Spacey, before he was hastily swapped for Christopher Plummer after Spacey was publicly accused of groping multiple men in the past. I downloaded some shows made by Amazon Studios, which is no longer headed by Roy Price, as he resigned last year after a producer accused him of sexual harassment. I read an interview with Uma Thurman in which she called out her former longterm collaborators, Harvey Weinstein and Quentin Tarantino, accusing the former of sexual assault and the latter of life endangerment, when Tarantino asked her to drive a car she felt was unsafe while shooting a movie (and which Thurman then crashed). And I saw pictures from the red carpet: at the Golden Globes, female actors wore black as a sign of solidarity with victims of sexual assault, while at the Grammys singers carried white roses for the same reason.

In the last six months the entertainment world has changed almost beyond recognition, and one person who has done more than most to bring about this change is McGowan.

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Source: gad

Amy Tan: ‘Writing it was exhilarating, but I wish it hadn’t been published’

The author of The Joy Luck Club talks about her favourite authors – and why she has misgivings about her own new book

Amy Tan is the author of six bestselling novels, including The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God’s Wife and The Bonesetter’s Daughter. She has also written a memoir, The Opposite of Fate, and two children’s books, The Moon Lady and Sagwa. She co-produced and wrote the Bafta-nominated film adaptation of The Joy Luck Club and wrote the libretto for the opera version of The Bonesetter’s Daughter. She has served as lead rhythm “dominatrix”, backing singer and second tambourine with the literary garage band the Rock Bottom Remainders, whose members have included Stephen King and Scott Turow. Their yearly gigs raised more than $1m for literacy programmes. Tan’s latest book is another autobiography, Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir (4th Estate, £18.99). She lives with her husband and two dogs in California and New York.

Your first memoir was published in 2004. What made you want to return to life writing?
It wasn’t a conscious decision. I was between novels and I needed to write a book that could withstand interruption, because I was on a book tour. It started off as a record of emails about the process of writing between me and my editor, but that was an awful idea. It fell to pieces. Then it turned into something much more personal, about how I write and what inspires me. But once it was done I realised you shouldn’t explain the magic tricks. Writing shouldn’t be dissected and pulled apart. So I hate that this is out there. I told my editor how I felt but he persuaded me it was wonderful and I caved in. I found writing it exhilarating. But I wish it hadn’t been published.

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Source: gad

Beastie Boys to publish long-awaited memoir

Announced in 2013, the autobiography will be ‘unlike any other music book’ according to Mike D of the hip-hop trio

The two remaining members of the Beastie Boys, Michael “Mike D” Diamond and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz, are to publish a memoir chronicling the history of the New York hip-hop trio.

The publication follows a 2013 book deal. In an interview on Beats 1, Diamond said: “Like many things we embark on, there are many false starts and, honestly, [there were] directions we went in that we realised were not the directions we should be going in.” He said the book will finally be published in autumn 2018.

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Source: gad

The 100 best nonfiction books of all time: the full list

After two years of careful reading, moving backwards through time, Robert McCrum has concluded his selection of the 100 greatest nonfiction books. Take a quick look at five centuries of great writing

1. The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert (2014)
An engrossing account of the looming catastrophe caused by ecology’s “neighbours from hell” – mankind.

2. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (2005)
This steely and devastating examination of the author’s grief following the sudden death of her husband changed the nature of writing about bereavement.

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Source: gad