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Friday, 13 December 2013

Autobiographies in Autumn

Despite my recent absence from the blog, my Literary Exploration Challenge has still been nagging away at the back of my mind. There's no way I'm going to get through all the genres by the end of the year but I don't think I'll end up doing too badly. One of the categories I was least looking forward to when the challenge started out was the goal to read one biography/memoir over the course of 2013. I am just not a biography reader. I am vaguely aware of a flurry of celebrity memoirs being published in the run up to Christmas every year but otherwise they just don't hit my radar. Unusually, then, I ended up reading two of the things over the past few weeks!

Morrissey - Autobiography 


They say 'never meet your heroes'. Well, let me recommend a new variation on this guideline: 'never read their autobiographies either'.

I jest! But having waited a long time for Morrissey's book to finally materialise, I was left disappointed to say the least. Morrissey has always been a controversial figure who polarises opinion, and I have always stood firmly in the 'massive fan' camp, seeing him as a local Manchester legend. And I have to say, I love the story that he refused to publish anything less than a Penguin Classic. Who else could get away with that? It's so audacious, so very Morrissey.

His lyrics are unparalleled, both in his work with The Smiths and his solo material, so it's no surprise that this way with words is firmly reflected in his Autobiography - he can certainly write well. I enjoyed the descriptions of his early years growing up in Old Trafford, interspersed with encyclopaedic recollections of his favourite records and TV shows from childhood. But as the book progresses, his gloomy wit becomes less and less charming and strays firmly into bitter whingeing territory. It seems like he hasn't a good word to say about anybody but a tiny handful of his closest friends, and that everything that has ever gone vaguely wrong in his life can be blamed on somebody else. Ultimately it makes for a very dreary read.

So I will be content to stick with the music I adore from now on. As the man himself sang:

"There's more to life than books, you know, but not much more"

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? - Mindy Kaling


I'd be hard-pushed to think of a more polar opposite memoir to Morrissey's than this one. It was passed on to me by my Aunt at a time when I was really busy and stressed, and work was getting me down. I really enjoy watching The Office (the US version) which is written by Kaling, although I haven't seen her starring in The Mindy Project. I suspected this would be a quick, light and fluffy read that wouldn't require too much concentration, and I was exactly right - it turned out to be just what I was in the mood for.

This is a less conventional biography than others I've read, in that it's a bit of a mixed bag of tricks. There are the expected chapters about Kaling's childhood and her rise to success in the male-dominated comedy industry, of course. But additionally the reader is treated to lots of shorter passages and mini-essays about...well, anything that pops into Mindy's head, really. Some of these are really funny. I particularly enjoyed her observations on chick-flicks and romantic comedies. Unfortunately, elsewhere I found these interludes to be somewhat distracting. I was left unsure whether or not there was supposed to be a narrative flow from start to finish, or if it was all just meant to be a bit random.

All things considered, this is good fun - the bookish equivalent of going to a girlie sleepover and having a gossip with your best friends. If you're a fan of The Office you'll almost certainly appreciate her brand of humour.

1 comment:

  1. What a shame that you didn't like the autobiography of Morrissey, but well, you live and learn and at least you can give us a great advice ;)
    I don't know the other author since I don't know The office, so well, I'm just glad this one was better than the other!