A fast-paced memoir of a struggling musician (who happens to be vegan)
Moby‘s Porcelain: A Memoir came out in 2017 before I was officially vegan so it wasn’t on my radar then, but I’m glad I learned about it recently! Written without the help of a ghostwriter and published by Penguin Random House (one of the biggest book publishing houses globally), Porcelain outlines Moby’s journey to become a DJ and eventually touring recording artist in the 80s and 90s, dipping into moments from his childhood. In a sense, it’s also a love letter to New York City where Moby shaped his music career.
Is Porcelain a memoir?
Heck yes. The genre’s in the title! And, even though Moby could have kept documenting the time past Play, arguably his most commercially successful album, the book comes to an abrupt stop in 1999 shortly before the release of the album. According to Wikipedia, it became the biggest-selling electronica album of all time with over 12 million copies sold worldwide.
This might seem disappointing, but if he’d kept going in time, we’d be dipping more into autobiography territory, and I appreciate and respect that Moby wanted to focus on how he became successful, from living in an abandoned warehouse in Stamford, CT to getting small DJing gigs weekly when he moved to New York City.
Is Porcelain a vegan memoir?
You could argue it isn’t, but I’ll say yes because Moby’s a well-known vegan and talks a bit about it in the memoir. (Definitely watch his short doc, Why I’m a Vegan, which uses the same alien motif as the book cover.) In Chapter 11, “Bloody Skateboard Wheels,” he comes to terms with how people consume animals and makes it his mission to stay vegan.
In Chapter 14, “Yams,” Moby talks about spending Thanksgiving with his family in 1990 and only being able to eat the yams.
There are several other cool things I learned from the book:
- The song “Go” on the album Moby samples the theme song of David Lynch’s 1990–1991 TV show, Twin Peaks, which I became a fan of after discovering it from my boyfriend (now husband) in 2007–2008.
- Moby once lived in a building where Sonic Youth, Iggy Pop, Sean Lennon, and Beastie Boys rehearsed. (Coincidentally, I’m just starting to get into some early ’90s alternative rock)
- His 1995 album Animal Rights diverted to punk rock and was a commercial failure, even though you could tell it came from such a pure place and reflected what was going on in his life at the time he recorded it. Some rock musicians enjoyed it; Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor said he had the whopping 10:45-long “Alone” on repeat.
Here’s the video for “Go,” a track loved by Europeans in particular.
I’m never surprised when artists write books, because creativity often transfers across mediums, but there were some really beautiful passages in Porcelain that won’t leave me:
- The opening paragraph of the second-to-last chapter, “Melting Pools of Snow,” which describes winter in New York City
- Chapter 57, “Beige Camry,” which takes us through what Moby saw as a child driving from New York City to Stratford, CT with his grandfather, and again as an adult to Boston, as he played songs that would eventually be on Play
If you like music—especially EDM in the 80s and 90s—pick up this book, have YouTube or your favourite music platform on standby, and enjoy the ride!
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