PositiveThe Guardian (UK)It’s impossible not to hear Clarke’s voice, rhythmic and deadpan, while reading his memoir. Like his poetry, his prose style is wry and dry. At nearly 500 pages, the book is long though the language is succinct. Mad anecdotes and whimsical gags abound, but wisdom often lurks beneath the wordplay. Clarke has his unreconstructed moments, but any mockery is at his own expense ... Those hoping for extensive analysis of Clarke’s working methods will need to look elsewhere ... He is more expansive on the social and cultural developments of his youth. Indeed, you’d struggle to find a more comprehensive and entertaining account of 60s and 70s popular culture as he contemplates fashion, hair styles, hats, comics, breakfast cereals, magazines, domestic colour schemes and architecture ... Clarke doesn’t deal in regret, and recalls his lean years with good humour ... a rare misty-eyed moment. Elsewhere, though, he remains bullishly unsentimental.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)Part memoir, part manifesto, it tackles such thorny issues as anal sex, smear tests, hangovers, teenagers, ageing parents, careers, the tyranny of the to-do list, big bums and the moment when your entire wardrobe seems to turn against you ... Those who read her newspaper columns will know that Moran – who is also a screenwriter and novelist – is great at the observational stuff. Elaborate metaphors abound ... She is also very funny, locating the absurd in everyday situations ... Threaded through the narrative is Moran’s commonsense feminism, underpinned by the principle that if men aren’t having to put up with this crap, then neither should we ... She has seen first-hand the catastrophically damaging effects of this demand for perfection through her own Instagram-loving children; indeed, the parts about raising teenagers provide the book’s real emotional punch ... We see Moran at her most serious and embattled, at sea in the face of illness and a child that she can’t reach.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)Kleeman, a journalist and documentary-maker who specialises in tech and social affairs, makes a compelling and thoughtful attempt to understand where such inventions might lead us. Her book is less a pearl-clutching polemic against progress than a concerned squint at what the future might hold ... Kleeman approaches her subject with a winning scepticism ... Reading her book, you are left dismayed not so much by what lies ahead as by the current reality of the men with planet-sized egos vying with one another to control birth, food, sex and death. It’s a habit that’s as old as the hills.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)Rock memoirs are traditionally full of myth-building and depravity, but Lanegan’s account of his tenure in the proto-grunge quartet Screaming Trees sidesteps the myth-building and rushes headlong into grand guignol scenes of degradation and self-abuse. Rare in its rawness and candour, the book is a brutal chronicle of addiction ... He makes no attempt to disguise or justify his behaviour, which includes habitually lying and cheating those close to him out of money, though his openness about his basest moments is disarming ... Despite the tragedies, an arch humour characterises a lot of the writing...
RaveThe Guardian (UK)... poignant and hugely entertaining ... an examination of the masks women wear to meet social expectations, occasionally prompting them to forget who they are entirely ... The book bursts with brilliantly gossipy titbits, recounted with wry understatement ... There is a dispassionate matter-of-factness to Moore’s prose as she relates her most traumatic moments. Self-pity isn’t her style ... In Miss Aluminium, her tales of the Hollywood high life certainly provide giggles and glitz, though the darkness is never far from the surface.
MixedThe Guardian (UK)... the memoir is based on a series of lengthy interviews, which makes for a conversational style, though anyone looking for an excavation of the soul might be disappointed. Harry has rock ’n’ roll stories to burn but the memoir as a confessional isn’t her style. For the most part, the Blondie character remains ... somewhat detached ... Whether reflecting on her fruitless search for her birth parents, or the New Jersey ex-boyfriend who stalked her and threatened her with a gun, or the close shave with a man who offered her a lift, and whom she believes to have been the serial killer Ted Bundy, Harry allows no room for shock, sadness or vulnerability. This is, of course, the author’s prerogative and doesn’t mean that the book is without depth or charm. She can be caustic and funny, and is drily unfazed by the antics of her mostly male peers ... Inevitably, Harry’s tales of her solo ventures and Blondie’s eventual reunion lack the atmosphere and excitement of the early years, and it’s with more than a little awkwardness that she shoehorns in details of her current day-to-day life to spice things up ... But when not resorting to padding, Face It makes for an engaging and occasionally surprising read. It’s a shame that Harry passes up the chance to dig deeper into her experiences of objectification and the nature of fame, but more disappointing is that we learn so little about her interior life, and how she really thinks and feels. Perhaps that’s to be expected from a notoriously private star with such an acute understanding of image. Rather than expose her inner workings to the world, Harry has determined to stay mysterious to the last.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)... often maudlin, a reflection both on mortality and of the times in which Smith finds herself, but rich in detail ... the narrative moves constantly between reverie and memory; it’s invariably left up to us to work out which is which ... Both mundane and magical, this book is a world away from Just Kids...though the unique artistry of her prose remains ... Smith lives much of her life in the past but her account of her wanderings shows us who she is now, and the stories and dreams that occupy her.
PositiveThe GuardianThis is no chronological plod through the classic western \'women in rock\' narrative ... [Goldman\'s] aim is to amplify female voices across cultures, continents and generations and to understand the relationship between genre and gender, all the while showing how oppression and hard-won freedoms have yielded some of the most electrifying music ever made ... The language is urgent, often furious, sometimes funny and full of piquant turns of phrase ... While Goldman isn’t especially interested in trying to define punk...her understanding of it is wide-ranging and determinedly global, travelling way beyond the old DIY cliches ... Goldman’s punk, then, is a broad church, including as it does those with views that seemingly go against the liberal punk grain. All the stories and voices here are linked by a defiance, both musical and ideological, born from thousands of years of patriarchal oppression
RaveThe GuardianWe’re hardly short of books by doctors describing difficult work carried out in straitened circumstances, but Nott’s is something else entirely. Where most people strive to avoid trouble, he actively goes in search of it ... His stories of courage and compassion in the face of seemingly certain death are breathtaking ... Nott is unsparing in his descriptions of civilian injuries...All make for astonishing and distressing reading ... While this is far from a straightforward memoir – his childhood plus his years of medical training speed by in a single chapter – we nonetheless get a vivid sense of his energy, his determination and his desperate, howling rage at the cruelty that humans wreak on one another ... If a film about [Nott\'s] life isn’t already in development, someone’s missing a trick.
MixedThe Guardian\"Tweedy’s playing down of his own suffering is an enduring motif and, on occasion, leads to the odd narrative glitch. At one point he starts to refer to one of his brothers, Greg, in the past tense, but omits to tell us when and how he died ... Elsewhere, Tweedy’s hesitant tone reveals the push and pull between his desire to be as honest as possible and wanting to draw a veil over his less salubrious moments ... Vulnerability may be Tweedy’s calling card as a songwriter, but he takes a long time finding it here.\
PositiveFinancial Times\"Longworth’s book is exceptionally well timed, arriving in the wake of the #MeToo movement during which women in Hollywood have exposed the men using power, wealth and influence to abuse and silence them. As shown here, such stories are as old as the hills ... Thus, far from a showbiz tell-all, Seduction is a vivid, insightful and often disturbing examination of male power and the commodification of women in 20th-century Hollywood ... While the 50 or so pages of references at the end of Seduction attest to Longworth’s scrupulous fact-checking, she isn’t wholly immune to gossip.\
PositiveThe GuardianBrennan-Jobs doesn’t berate or make excuses for her father ... Small Fry isn’t about eliciting sympathy or seeking revenge. Instead she tries to get to the bottom of a relationship mired in awkwardness and unpredictability. In exposing her father’s more unpleasant traits, her language betrays her trepidation. Not given to drama or sentimentality, it is sparse though precise. The more shocking the anecdote, the more economical her description, though her wounds are clear ... In memoirs, as in life, one person’s fact is often another’s fiction. Brennan-Jobs doesn’t emerge smelling of roses either ... Given all she endured, who could begrudge his daughter the last word?
PositiveThe Guardian...a heartfelt and thoughtful meditation on what parenthood asks of a man. Rather than focusing on the next generation, the book is about the experience of being in the previous one, and observing one’s slow-burning irrelevance ... While no great parenting secrets are uncovered in this slim volume, Chabon has a knack of locating the fundamentals of the parent-child relationship in the innocuous and the everyday.
Andrew Lloyd Webber
PanThe GuardianAs well as reinforcing his position as the leading light of musical theatre, Unmasked cements his status as king of the humblebrag ... his breakdown of each song as it appeared on the album [for Evita], specifically how it was conceived and its role in the narrative, is enough to make even the most ardent fan swear off musicals forever ... There are some juicy anecdotes here but the pacing is all over the place. Lloyd Webber may know a thing or two about theatrical narrative, but he’s yet to learn that, when telling his own story, less is definitely more.
RaveThe GuardianAs well as making sense of the extraordinary, O’Farrell’s expertise lies in finding significance in the ordinary, making connections and finding clarity where most might find fog ... O’Farrell hopscotches across the decades, offering us a series of hugely evocative vignettes that point to multiple lives and identities. Thus, we meet her as a daughter, a student, an office worker, a mother, a wife and a traveller. We are privy to various moods and mindsets: in love, heartbroken, lonely, restless, rebellious, scared, purposeful. I Am, I Am, I Am isn’t purely about peril, it’s about the life lived either side of it. These snapshots, shared in extreme closeup, reveal a thoughtful and determined writer who, despite frequent trauma, remains resilient and unbowed.
RaveThe Guardian\"Sedaris’s observations continue to sharpen throughout the 1980s and there are stories here about women being beaten by their boyfriends and African Americans being racially abused that are as effective as any sociopolitical polemic. And yet it’s either a result of the times in which Sedaris is writing, or his own naivety, that his observations about race can prompt discomfort, too ... vignettes are often achingly funny and, even when leading us into the darker corners of the Sedaris psyche, they can still make you gasp ... Ultimately, his masterstroke is in acting as a bystander in his own story. It’s other people’s lives that Sedaris finds most fascinating and, by extension, so do we.\
MixedThe GuardianThis readiness to dig deep, to peel back his insecurities and reveal the less flattering parts of his personality, is what gives Nevertheless its moments of clarity and charm ... his flaws are examined thoughtfully and with disarming candour. While some are treated with wryness or a resigned shrug, other more serious ones, such as his accidental drug overdose in his 20s, are offered up with a heartfelt desire to do better ... [the] acerbic moments are amusing enough but they are at odds with his earlier reflectiveness. A shift in tone between Baldwin’s pre- and post-fame existence is inevitable, though the difference here is marked, and the litany of slights, publicity cock-ups and professional hiccups tip him from self-aware to self-absorbed..
PositiveThe GuardianOn the fame front, Fisher, who is now 60, is typically sardonic, adeptly capturing the unexpected madness of Star Wars ... Fisher also includes her original diary entries, which are rambling, repetitive, overwrought and ultimately not worthy of the generous space that they are given ... Diaries aside, however, her writing is mostly smart and funny. The pages crackle with self-deprecating one-liners, chatty observations and the singular wisdom that comes with being forever immortalised in the minds of teenage boys in a metal bikini and chained to a slug.
PositiveThe GuardianAn Abbreviated Life is a powerful and frequently devastating account of a childhood without boundaries and dominated by loneliness, chaos and fear ... Leve is a journalist and she brings a reporter’s curiosity and diligence to her subject. Not always trusting her own version of events, she seeks the testimony of others ... Leve’s recollections can be brutal but are made digestible by the elegant sparseness of her prose. There are times, however, when the injustice of it all overwhelms her and her sentences begin to bubble and spit. You get a sense of a writer forever trying keep a lid on her fury.