Moby’s well-received first memoir, Porcelain, covered his experiences as a New York DJ in the 80s and 90s, and ended tantalizingly on the eve of his mega-successful breakthrough album Play. Then It Fell Apart (named after a line in Extreme Ways) picks up where Porcelain left off, taking us through his years of fame and fortune, and the descent to alcoholism and drug addiction that came with it.
Tales of drunken debauchery and outrageous behaviour are inter-cut with chapters on his impoverished, neglected childhood. Moby says this was inspired by Slaughterhouse Five, but it reminded me of The Godfather Part II as we see the events leading up to and resulting from part one. Moby remains an excellent storyteller, writing in clean, clear prose which is far more readable than the famous work by his leviathan-loving ancestor Herman Melville.
The problem is that by painting a picture of a bleak decade in decadent decline, it’s essentially a catalogue of all the worst things Moby has ever done. He bares his soul, putting his own extreme ways under a microscope, but there feels something almost masochistic about the endless stories of his degrading, humiliating behaviour. It’s not clear if he’s seeking approval for his honesty, sympathy from the juxtaposition with his troubled past or this is merely self-flagellation, but it feels misjudged.
Where Porcelain included joyful descriptions of wild raves, stories of the quirky characters and weird sights of New York’s underground night life and tales of a sincere, grateful man finding his place in the world, Then It Fell Apart is the story of a famous multimillionaire burying his sorrows in a swimming pool of drink and drugs, and mistreating those around him. Essentially it’s Moby being a dick, and it’s just not fun to read.
The celebrity anecdotes of Porcelain, which felt noteworthy when they were the chance encounters of an upstart DJ, here feel like name dropping. The intention seems to be to reflect his awe and imposter syndrome at finding himself in the company of people he’d previously looked up to, but that’s not how anecdotes like this come across:
“‘Nine?’ I said uncertainly, suddenly nervous that I’d done something wrong by having the temerity to invite Madonna to a party. But I’d known her for years, and two years ago she’d given me my third or fourth MTV Award at a ceremony in Sweden.”
There are endless descriptions of expensive hotels, large properties and it barely goes two pages without mentioning a limo. It’s meant to be drawing attention to the fact that none of this made him happy, but he fell for the trappings of fame so utterly and completely that it makes the earnest, principled, thoughtful vegan of Porcelain and social media (all profits from both books go to animal rights charities) seem less likable.
The result is readable but not enjoyable, and with the controversy over his relationship with Natalie Portman, and subsequent cancellation of all public appearances, this attempt at literary catharsis appears to have made things fall apart all over again.