Morrissey – Autobiography

I was given Morrissey’s autobiography, cunningly titled Autobiography, as a gift for my 44th birthday recently.

Now he does come across as a cantankerous old sod, but from reading this it would appear that an awful lot of the public’s view of him is garnered from some really quite spiteful reporting in both the mainstream press and the music press. Who’s to say if all, some of it or none of it is deserved.  It’s refreshing to hear it from his point of view.

One thing cannot be taken away from Steven Patrick Morrissey, and that is the fact that he is one of the most important cultural icons of the last thirty years.  Of course some people have got themselves all hot and bothered over the book’s branding, but again, this is mostly down to the large amounts of hubris spouted about him, than any actual intent on his part… I’d say.

 

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Paxman, Jeremy – Empire

This is my current bedtime reading and I am loving it.

On the telly, he can come across as a bit of a pompous tit can our Jeremy*.  However, this is a book that belies that tendency.  In the Britain of today when some groups would have it that Empire days were the halcyon days for our nation he manages to prick that nonsense with finely chosen examples of British bombast and over reaction to the natives getting restless.

In short he compares our behaviour with an awful lot of other countries behaviour at the same time.  You know the sort of stuff that we’d snort into our pints and say, “Bloody Germans”, or “Those pesky Frenchies”…

As ever, history tells us a great deal about ourselves, usually more than we would care to admit, and this book is a fine example of that.  What were the motives of the British abroad?  In many cases it was pure naked greed – see the case of Cecil Rhodes.  In other cases there was the evangelical need to convert the natives to Christianity, usually when they had perfectly good local religions of their own.  We forget that the way we behave today, immigrants out, keep Britain for the British is more than a little hypocritical when measured against our own behaviour over the years.

Ultimately, Paxman’s Empire: What Ruling the World Did to the British is a reflection upon what our contact with the outside world contributed to our modern concept of Britishness, warts and all.

*One supposes that when you spend a lot of your life interviewing people who are über examples of being pompous and tittish it will rub off on you.

 

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Haddon, Mark – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Although marketed as a children’s book, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is also suitable for adults.  I found it unputdownable and read it in one sitting in the bath one night.  Well I couldn’t put it down, as it may have become wet!  But anyway, enough of my poor jokes, what about the book?  It features 15-year old Christopher Boone, a child with Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome.  It isn’t made clear in the book – perhaps a device by the author to demonstrate that people should not be pigeon-holed?  The story starts with Christopher discovering Wellington, the dog of his neighbour, Mrs Shears, killed with a garden fork on her front lawn.  In attempting to solve the crime, we see Christopher embark on a journey which as some very interesting and to him, shocking, results.

Haddon’s portrayal of a child with Autism / AS is sympathetic.  Of course it’s not perfect as many who know better than me have no doubt testified, but it certainly made me think about why certain things – e.g. the dislike of yellow and brown – might be disturbing to someone with such a condition.  It is often said that we all of us are somewhere on the Autistic Spectrum with our own idiosyncrasies – it’s only a matter of degree.  This book does nor portray itself as a text book on either condition, it is a work of fiction, so can be used as a device to spark discussion and to bring such issues to popular attention.  The bottom line is that the story of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is an enjoyable story.

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Robinson, Peter – Bad Boy (An Inspector Banks Mystery)

[easyreview cat1title=”Genre” cat1detail=”Crime” cat1rating=”-1″ cat2title=”Synopsis” cat2detail=”This time it’s personal. A desperate drug dealer has Banks’ daughter hostage and there is no telling what he will do. That’s the dealer not Banks.” cat2rating=”-1″ cat3title=”Review” cat3detail=”This is as fast paced as any of Robinson’s previous Inspector Banks novels.  The fact that the particular drug dealer who has Banks’ daughter hostage is not the only drug dealer or drug dealer’s associate on the lose makes the novel taught with suspense and dripping with intrigue.  Also, Banks’ daughter is not the only person close to him who is in danger.  I found this book to be unputdownable.” cat3rating=”4.5″ overall=”false”]
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MacDonald, Ian – Revolution in the Head

I bought this book some time ago and it’s been a constant companion ever since.

MacDonald writes with a subjective clarity about The Beatles.  He is clearly a fan, but is not frightened to tell it how it is when he feels that the Fab Four were off their game for any reason.  The chapter titles of the section of the book which deals with the records of The Beatles give an instant sense of the journey to the top of their profession and the relatively rapid descent down again – Going Up; The Top and Coming Down.

For all the influence that the band has, they were only together as recording artists for 8 years between 1962’s Love Me Do (a McCartney-Lennon composition) to 1970’s I Me Mine (Harrison).  The book is a scholarly tome, an historical record of some of the most innovative and groundbreaking music ever produced.  Given the way The Beatles’ music doesn’t seem to have dated, it’s a strange concept for me to understand but they had all but finished being the Beatles before I was six months old.

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Riordan, Jim – Comrade Jim

This is an interesting little book.  I bought it because I love football and I am more than a little interested in the history of the Soviet Union.  Not I might point out through any deep seated desire to see the resurrection of the ‘Evil Empire’ but just because it is so fascinating.  But that’s enough about my obsession with the murky past of the USSR.

Riordan claims to have played two games for the great Spartak Moscow during the early sixties.  Some have poured scorn on his claim, but I’m going to stay on the hedge on the issue.  One of my favourite books, Sleepers by Lorenzo Carcaterra is one of those for which claims have been made and questioned about its links to reality.  There is the odd bit of historical inaccuracy, such as towards the end when the author mixes the Taylor Report with the Popplewell Report in the aftermath of the Bradford City Stadium fire.   Ultimately though, Comrade Jim is an enjoyable way to pass a few nights ticked up in bed.

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Peel, John – Margrave of The Marshes

aka Grr! It’s only August and &^*$% X-Factor has started again…

Words alone cannot express just how much I despise this show. Anyway, enough about that, I should have realised that it was about to start again sometime soon. I don’t think it’s entirely coincidental that I have just finished reading John Peel’s auto-biography / biography. In common with other luminaries of the ‘new music’ scene such as Radcliffe & Maconie, I am pretty sure that he would be absolutely horrified at the thought of it.

On one level, I suppose it is the sort of show that is a) an ITV staple and b) probably very good television, but as far as bringing new musical talent to the nation, well it’s a complete and utter turn off. Good singers though the winners undoubtedly are, in the main, they and the others who have made it to the final three months of programmes do represent the safest of safe choices. Of course the odd act is different, Diana Vickers springs to mind, but some of them are truly teeth curlingly bad, &^%$ing Jedward and that awful brother and sister combo from a few years back being the worst examples. Oh yes, and Chico.

Anyway, enough of this, I was trying to write about John Peel’s book. I found it hard not to cry as a I read it. It’s so obvious, especially reading the second half which his wife finished, that he was loved and admired pretty much by all and sundry for the work he did in giving people a chance. Would we have had The Smiths or The Undertones for example without him. Possibly, probably even, but that’s not the point. He deliberately, certainly in the early days of Radio 1 went against policy and played new stuff by band and artists who wouldn’t have made it to the playlist without him.

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