PositiveThe Times (UK)To Be Honest could be the treatment for a Truman Show-style comedy—what happens if you cannot tell a lie?—yet it is also an uneasy family memoir, its eccentricity sometimes jack-knifed by sadness ... Leviton’s writing shares space with David Sedaris, hilariously aware of other people’s failings yet eager to drag his unsavoury traits into the light and offer them up for the reader’s appalled delectation. As Leviton’s dad would probably point out, there are flaws—the indie-film romance with Eve becomes repetitive, and it would be fascinating to hear more from his younger siblings. Yet, like its author, To Be Honest is an open book, exposing not only one man’s personal struggle with the truth, but also the millions of little social contracts that bounce and stream between us every second.
Mariah Carey, with Michaela Angela Davis
RaveThe Times (UK)Only the wildest gambler, then, would have put money on The Meaning of Mariah Carey being such a perfectly pitched modern pop autobiography, addressing tough, timely issues of racism, sexism, power and trauma with humanity and candour. Impressively co-written with the \'image activist\' and editor Michaela Angela Davis, it isn’t quite a gritty misery memoir — Carey sparkles too hard for that — but the flawless pop star image often rubs away to show real pain ... This is, ultimately, a high-spec survivor’s tale and if it occasionally becomes schmaltzy or self-serving — an eye-to-eye moment of understanding with Princess Diana across a crowded charity ball; recognition from the rapper Tupac Shakur — it’s balanced by surprising self-awareness and a willingness to show exactly where she came from ... There’s a strong sense throughout this book that the diva might fall under this category herself; she cracks enough jokes to suggest she would be great fun over an unguarded bottle of wine ... Yet if at times it seems a shame she hasn’t gone the full Elton John — dialling up the indiscretion, naming more names — it’s because there’s a real seriousness to this tale of transformation, not so much a miracle as real-life escape. With The Meaning of Mariah Carey, she proves once again that she is what she has always wanted to be: a class act.
MixedThe Sunday Times (UK)Uxoriousness is rarely considered a cardinal rock’n’roll virtue, yet, creditably, Frantz uses Remain in Love to highlight Weymouth’s importance to Talking Heads ... There is a righteous rebalancing to Remain in Love, then, yet tangled up with this love story is one that looks a lot more like hate ... Frantz is explicit he has axes to grind ... Frantz is too well brought up to turn his book into an openly vengeful bloodbath, but even so he isn’t afraid to slide a blade between Byrne’s ribs, not always as subtly as he thinks ... It’s often unintentionally funny, though ... Frantz writes in thumping four-to-the-floor prose that often reads like an annotated tour diary: a visit to Stonehenge with the Ramones here, excitable Italian fans there ... However, Frantz’s inner-circle, right-time-right-place status lends him a stash of great anecdotes, suggestive of the era’s downtown crosscurrents ... Yet...Remain in Love leaves a bitter aftertaste. The band politics are, despite the cheery gloss, poisonous ... reading Remain in Love often feels like looking at a photo album in which someone has cut all the heads off an estranged lover, a vacancy that draws the eye. Frantz has done an effective job of rebalancing the Talking Heads story, offering an angle on the band that fans will relish, but, oddly for a drummer, he’s sacrificed something of the heartbeat.
RaveThe Times (UK)In this fascinating yet deeply disturbing book, the journalist Robert Kolker burrows deep into the issue of nature versus nurture. As with his previous outing, Lost Girls , about a series of murders on Long Island, it’s a work of precise reportage: he spoke to all the surviving members of the Galvin family, including matriarch Mimi before her death in 2017, creating a startlingly intimate account of a family ruptured from within by forces they could not control. From the name of the Galvins’ street to their love of falconry, an exercise in controlling wildness, the material often has an uncanny, novelistic quality. At times it’s reminiscent of Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Virgin Suicides : an all-American family, an inexplicable contagion, a malignant turning inwards, all against a backdrop of respectable conformity ... Kolker, careful and compassionate, hasn’t turned Hidden Valley Road into a pure horror story, but by revealing the Galvins’ remarkable circumstances, he shows just how delicately balanced a family, a mind — a whole life — can be.
RaveThe Times (UK)A biographer’s gift, [Alex] later became an art dealer, befriending Picasso and living in a home full of works by Matisse, Manet and Renoir ... His story glitters, but there are other biographical riches. Henri pioneered microfilm — a spy story itself — and spent the war hiding in Paris with his wife Sonia ... Bearing witness is a powerful motive, but Freeman also frames House of Glass as a warning against a backdrop of rising nationalism and anti-semitism across the world ... \'Haunting\' is an insufficient description of House of Glass. It lingers, chilling the room ... Yet it’s not a book of ghosts; these people exist in high definition, Freeman catching their foibles, feuds, physical quirks and flashes of heroism. Researched with diligence and written with love, it triggers the same shock of recognition that comes from colourised film ... House of Glass opens the door on to the past, and its light spills sharply across the present.
MixedThe GuardianFishnet – alluring, dangerous, entangling – is driven by a campaigning energy, but it is so keen to emphasise that not all sex workers are damaged, vulnerable streetwalkers that it can become clangingly polemical ... The mystery generated around Rona, however, is beautifully unsettling, while the depiction of Fiona’s empty world – failing Facebook friendships, cavernous glass-fronted bars and concrete austerity-struck business zones – shows off Innes’s gift for describing the mundane as well as the exotically marginal.
PositiveThe Times (UK)This Searing Light, the Sun and Everything Else...walks familiar ground, then. Yet the oral-history format lends a warmth and flexibility that prevents it becoming just another grim rattle of the ossuary. The band are natural raconteurs, dry, funny, self-aware, and the testimony of friends, associates and \'witnesses\' adds new perspective ... What comes across strongly here, however, is how painfully young they all were, how ill-equipped to help, how deeply regretful afterwards ... This Searing Light, the Sun and Everything Else, though, once again lets the life back into the story. It’s all the more devastating for that.
PositiveThe Times (UK)\"Goldberg’s game isn’t painting Cobain as a cynical bread-head—the manager is often as starry-eyed as any fan at his subject’s creative gifts and he clearly loved the man—yet he does take strong issue with those who insist Cobain was an unhappy victim of the machine ... In a letter to the singer-songwriter Juliana Hatfield, Cobain described Goldberg as \'the most honest man in showbiz.\' Serving the Servant brings that clarity and insight to Nirvana’s frequently rehashed story, sharpening the edges of Cobain’s image 25 years after his death, removing the soft-focus \'legend\' filter to bring the complicated man briefly into view.\
PositiveThe Sunday TimesConnolly...takes a sensible route down the path dividing the saint and the monster in this careful, thoughtful biography ... Connolly wears his acquaintance lightly, never forcing himself into the narrative or sinking into the hideous mateyness that can blight rock biographies. It explains, too, why the Lennon captured here feels so warm to the touch ... For Connolly, it is Lennon’s insecurities that are ultimately most revealing, rooted in an unsettled childhood in Liverpool’s postwar suburbs ... for anyone interested in the Beatles, their story has something of the infinite flexibility of fairy tale or Arthurian legend, able to withstand endless retellings ... Connolly does all this with quiet expertise, an understated writer who collates all the details into a vivid whole ... neither hatchet job nor hagiography, Being John Lennon swerves dead-hero worship.
PositiveThe TimesThe Who were youthful agents of the incoming counter-culture, but Daltrey was a child of a keep-calm-and-carry-on era, and this stocky, muscular narrative reveals a no-nonsense approach to his life and work ... The Who continued, though, and the pride Daltrey takes in it is fierce. Yet as the book progresses, there’s a sense that he really found himself beyond the band: in his solo work, his second wife, Heather, his acting career, his much-mocked trout fishing ... He did eventually take acid, accidentally drinking a spiked cup of tea at Woodstock. Like so much in his story, it’s a perfectly ordinary way of falling into the extraordinary.
PositiveThe TimesMatthew Polly’s muscular biography of Lee could feel like a tragedy ... Yet despite his death, this book succeeds in capturing his energy and achievements, a volley of incident that rarely lets up ... Polly is, however, as keen to unpick myths as make them and he dedicates a chapter to the day Lee died ... This isn’t a subtle book, but for anyone curious about Lee’s legacy, it’s a roundhouse kick of a biography.