The Poor Little Rich Girl memoir, popular for at least a century, nowadays slums it in the misery department. ‘One particularly annoying aspect of being sexually abused or traumatised as a child,’ writes Ivana Lowell in Why not Say what Happened? (Bloomsbury, £25), ‘is that everyone wants you to talk about it.’ Does she mean ‘everyone’, or just her agent, publisher and ‘many psychiatrists’?
Keith Richards is a cross between Johnny B. Goode and Captain Hook.
Apparently Lord Bath is writing an online autobiography, ‘an oeuvre of some seven million words’. For those without a computer, a broadband connection or any better way of spending a few years, Nesta Wyn Ellis’s The Marquess of Bath: Lord of Love (Dynasty Press, £13.99) will make an adequate substitute. It is a repetitive and incoherent book, not obviously reliable – the author thinks that fellatio is performed on women and that Guy Burgess was heterosexual – or even strictly literate, but oddly appropriate to its subject.
Ecce Homo Erectus. Saul Bellow, John Updike … at 77, Philip Roth is the last of three giants still standing; and he actually does stand to write, at a lectern-like desk — scriptern? This verticality is crucial to his ideas of self and spirit, and is fully evident in his fiction, which is nothing if not erect.
The best book so far about Bob Dylan, the only one worthy of his oeuvre, is his own astonishing Chronicles, Volume One (2004), but while we wait for the next fix, Bob Dylan in America will keep the withdrawal symptoms at bay.
Apart from his enormous wealth, the only interesting thing about Paul Raymond was his dishonesty, which was relentless and comprehensive, and always gave the game away.
D. B. C. Pierre’s Vernon God Little was an unusual Man Booker winner (2003).
Michael Moorcock’s career is indisputably heroic.
If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface: of my paintings and films and me, and there I am.
The last time I saw Benazir Bhutto was at Oxford, over champagne outside the Examination Schools, when she inquired piercingly of a subfusc linguist, ‘Racine? What is Racine?’ Older and richer than most undergraduates, and as a Harvard graduate presumably better educated, she was already world famous, and was obviously not at Oxford to learn about classical tragedy.
In his memoir Somebody Down Here Likes Me, Too, the boxer Rocky Graziano, on whom Paul Newman based his performance in Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), describes the actor in perfect Runyonese:
Badly behaved toffs have been a gift to writers since ancient times, and in English from Chaucer to Waugh.
Years ago the late ‘Brookie’ Warwick, 8th Earl, asked me to ghost his memoirs.
Twenty years ago, when William Dalrymple published his first book, In Xanadu, travel writers tended to follow the example of Paul Theroux, whose huge success then dominated the genre, and to cast themselves as the heroes of their narratives.
Naked Lunch: 50th Anniversary Edition, by William Burroughs
Me: The Authorised Biography, by Byron Rogers