Books of the month: From Jonathan Franzen’s Crossroads to Sarah Hall’s Burntcoat

Martin Chilton reviews five of October’s biggest releases for our monthly column

Monday 04 October 2021 09:50
<p>October reads</p>

October reads

October is bursting with celebrity memoirs, as comedians, actors and musicians, including Nirvana and Foo Fighters star Dave Grohl, rush to wear their hearts on their literary sleeves. There are two crackers coming at the end of the month. Brian Cox’s Putting the Rabbit in the Hat: My Autobiography (Quercus) grips from the beginning – a witty prologue about the preposterousness of Steven Seagal – and is the sort of riveting, candid read you might expect from the illustrious Succession actor. Fellow Scottish thespian Alan Cumming will also have you laughing and squirming with Baggage: Tales from a Fully Packed Life (Canongate), which includes a memorable account of just how grim it was to spend a weekend as the guest of a drunken, cantankerous Gore Vidal.

I listened to David Sedaris reading Theft by Finding, the first volume of his diaries, on audiobook and could still hear his voice in my head while feasting on A Carnival of Snackery – Diaries: Volume Two, 2003-2020 (Little, Brown), which is full of the same sardonic barbed wit. The book displays his admirable taste for the grotesque, and although world affairs feature in his daily accounts – the “con man” Donald Trump, Brexit, coronavirus – his funniest observations deal with the quirks of the great unwashed. Oh, and there are jokes galore, again, as with his entry for 25 September 2007: “Paris. To honour the death of Marcel Marceau I observed a minute of silence.”

In Major Labels: A History of Popular Music in Seven Genres (Canongate), Kelefa Sanneh takes on the ambitious task of summarising the story of rock, R&B, country, punk, hip-hop, dance and pop in around 450 pages. The book is immensely readable, and full of rich detail. The chapter on country music, for example, is engrossing, and anyone who describes Iris DeMent as “transfixing” gets my nod of approval as a music critic. Another impressive music book out this month is From Manchester With Love: The Life and Opinions of Tony Wilson (Faber), Paul Morley’s account of the action-packed life of the man who made such a mark with Factory Records and Manchester’s celebrated club The Hacienda.

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