Moby to follow ancestor Herman Melville into print with memoir

The bohemian turned pop star’s book has already won pre-publication praise from Salman Rushdie and Dave Eggers

The musician Moby is following in the footsteps of his long-distant ancestor Herman Melville and turning to the literary arena, with a memoir due out next summer and already drawing praise from the likes of Salman Rushdie and Dave Eggers.

Born Richard Melville Hall, Moby was given his nickname as a child by his parents, in reference to the whale dreamed up by the author who is said to be his great-great-great uncle. His memoir, which has been acquired for an undisclosed sum by the literary publisher Faber, and is due out next June, will be a “piercingly tender, funny, and harrowing account” of how he moved “from suburban poverty and alienation to a life of beauty, squalor, and unlikely success”, said the publisher.

Called Porcelain, it traces how a “poor, skinny white kid from deepest Connecticut”, a devout Christian, vegan and teetotaller, moved to New York to work as a DJ and musician in the club scene of the 1980s and 1990s, and how he went on to write the multimillion-selling album Play.

“The writing is terrific, enlivened by a bewildered deadpan humour that makes crazy sense of it all. His ancestor Herman Melville would, I think, be simultaneously revolted and proud,” said Rushdie of the book. The novelist described it as “10 years of Moby’s life, mostly in the decrepit, dangerous, much-loved New York City of the 1990s, a life comically overcrowded, filthy, alcohol-fuelled, vegan, unbelievably noisy, full of spit and semen and some sort of Christianity; and often, suddenly, moving.”

Eggers, meanwhile, said the memoir was “one of the funniest and most accessible books you’ll ever read about an erstwhile Christian/alcoholic vegan electronic music maker”, in which the reader feels welcome “or just as out of place as he feels – in the world of rock and raves and clubs”.

Faber called Porcelain “a masterpiece in its own right, fit for the short shelf of musicians’ memoirs that capture not just a scene but an age, and something timeless about the human condition”. It follows recent memoirs from musicians including Morrissey, which was published by Penguin under its Modern Classics imprint, and Keith Richards’ bestselling Life.


Alison Flood

The GuardianTramp

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