Short Takes: Book reviews in brief

December 28, 2013 

“Autobiography” by Morrissey

Nonfiction

Autobiography

Morrissey, Putnam, 459 pages

So much about Morrissey has hardened into caricature over his three-decade musical career – He’s a megalomaniac! A sad sack! Perhaps even a racist! – that you might expect him to use his memoir to dismantle some of those notions. Maybe next time. “Autobiography” is a corroborating portrait of the artist we’re all certain we know, down to its very title, which seems to be after a kind of scholarly weight that something like “My Life” wouldn’t have conveyed.

Morrissey writes with a sense of style, vanishingly rare in rock memoirs, that elevates his ceaseless whining to the literary standing he evidently covets. And yet it leaves so much unsaid. Though he’s happy to shovel scorn upon virtually everyone in his life and to exercise a sharp critical eye regarding his favorite records (including his own), Morrissey offers little about his personal life. The result is a burnishing of Morrissey’s established image, not a glimpse beneath the surface. It’s yet another performance – a grandly entertaining one – from an artist whose only use for intimacy may be as part of his act.

Los Angeles Times

Fiction

The Rosie Project

Graeme Simsion, Simon and Schuster, 295 pages

Don Tillman, narrator of Graeme Simsion’s debut novel, “The Rosie Project,” is, in his own words, “thirty-nine years old, tall, fit, and intelligent, with a relatively high status and above-average income as an associate professor. Logically, I should be attractive to a wide range of women. … However, there is something about me that women find unappealing.”

That something is what readers will identify as Asperger’s syndrome – Don is long on logic, unpracticed with emotion and challenged by social cues. In the first scene of the book, his philandering colleague, Gene, asks Don to sub for him at a lecture he’s supposed to give on Asperger’s. “Gene’s lecture problem had arisen,” Don explains in his signature deadpan tone, “because he had an opportunity to have sex with a Chilean academic who was visiting Melbourne for a conference.”

Don may be found wanting by the ladies, but he is adored by readers. A runaway best-seller in Australia, “The Rosie Project” was published in 40 countries this year. It plays Asperger’s for laughs – and mostly wins them. Some broad comic strokes in the windup – practicing dance steps with a skeleton, say – will probably work better in the upcoming film version.

“The Rosie Project” was recommended to me by a friend who read it immediately after a death in her family. It is definitely a take-your-mind-off-your-troubles kind of book, and those who would relish a few hours of sweet, silly diversion will enjoy it.

Newsday

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