I’m getting a little bit sick of this:
I’m on page 231 out of 274 and losing interest fast.
I know the difference between an autobiography and a memoir and I had already adjusted my expectations accordingly, but at this point in the book, James is talking about his personal trainer and upgrading his pilot’s license. Um… what?
Earlier today, I came across this sentence, which I suppose is what made me want to write about this book before I finished reading it:
‘I’d spent about a million pounds on champagne and cocaine. It sounds ridiculous but, looking back, I don’t regret it.’
There are a number of things that really annoy me about this sentence, aside from the callous disregard for anyone less well off than him, who might cringe at the unrepentant squandering of life-changing quantities of money.
This is the first reference James has made to cocaine in the whole of the book. It is not the first time I’ve felt like he’s hiding something from the reader: there are inconsistencies, for example, earlier on when we don’t know where he’s been on tour and how many albums Blur are have released at that point. I’m willing to forgive an imperfect memory, what frustrates me is that James wants to frame his life story as a kind of salvation from debauchery, turning away from the “rock star” lifestyle (“rock star” is a favourite phrase, so is “hedonistic”) towards nobler pursuits such as piloting, cheese and astronomy. The problem with this is that all the stuff about redemption and goodliness doesn’t stick if you’re going to censor the wild bits. Ozzy Osbourne snorted a line of ants, Alex James drunkenly dancing on tables and sharing same sex kisses with Damon Albarn is sub-Britney Spears.
It’s not that James can’t write well about tamer subject matter. His school days and teen years are interesting, and the development of his interest in astronomy is lovely. Of course, there’s lots to enjoy or I wouldn’t have got through the first 200-odd pages and I did learn some interesting things, for example, that Damien Hirst directed the video for Country House (although my boyfriend failed to be suitably impressed when I told him because he already knew that. If this is new information to you, please comment on this review and use lots of exclamation points to signify your surprise!!!!!!!) and that Graham Coxon frequently gets hit by cars.
James claims that while the boys of Blur like each other well enough, they all have their own crowd who they hang out with outside of the band. This is fair and it’s nice to hear there’s no secret loathing going on between them, but why does he think he’s famous? Why focus on the life outside music when music is the thing that’s elevated you to the position where you can command large sums of money for your autobiography? If you don’t want to air your dirty laundry then focus on the music. If you don’t want to relive the minutiae of recording the songs, filming videos and going on tour after tour after tour then dish deeper!
At the moment, Bit Of A Blur is just frustrating. It’s not a bad book, but it’s fallen into a really dry stretch that’s causing me to look back with cynicism at the boozy anecdotes and trivia about 90s alternative rock of earlier chapters. I don’t think they’ll be that strong with objective eyes either. I don’t think that Alex James is very good at differentiating between events that are influential and memorable within his own life to the person living it, and what makes a memorable and influential read, because if he could understand this distinction he wouldn’t have written that boring chapter about going to Monte Carlo with his posh friends, and he would have written more about Francoise Hardy and less about Keith Allen.
But then, perhaps that’s not really a fair criticism to make. If you want to read someone’s autobiography then you have to hope that they possess enough of an ego to drive them to write one in the first place.