Mick Jagger Forgot He Wrote a Book, and Other News


On the Shelf

Oops! From the cover of She’s the Boss, 1985.


  • Memoirs are hot right now. “Lost” books are hot right now. So it stands to reason: if you could write a memoir and then somehow “lose” it—maybe, by, say, failing to remember that you ever wrote it at all—you’re gonna be rolling in the dough. But who, you might ask, could ever forget writing his own memoirs? The answer is simple: Mick Jagger, whose whole life lives under the banner of plausible deniability. Jagger, who’s claimed that he’ll never write an autobiography, has apparently forgotten that he already wrote one, of some seventy-thousand words, in the early eighties. Having expunged any memory of the book, he’s done more than any publicity tour could to enhance its salability. John Blake dishes: “Stuck in a secret hiding place right now I have Mick’s 75,000-word manuscript … Mick was reputedly paid an advance of £1 million, an extraordinary figure for the time. A ghost was appointed and publication scheduled. Only it didn’t work out quite like that … [In the book], Mick tells of buying a historic mansion, Stargroves, while high on acid and of trying out the life of horse-riding country squire. Having never ridden a horse before, he leapt on to a stallion, whereupon it reared and roared off ‘like a Ferrari’. Summoning his wits and some half-remembered horse facts, he gave the stallion a thump on the forehead right between the eyes and slowed it down … I was determined that this book needed to be published. Mick’s delightful manager, Joyce Smyth, responded encouragingly to my letter. Mick could not remember any manuscript.”
  • While we’re failing to remember things—more believably and far more tragically, the culture has failed to canonize Freda DeKnight, a prominent black editor, writer, and cook whose midcentury fame has now completely evaporated. Donna Battle Pierce explains, “Born in 1909, DeKnight spent much of her fifty-four years collecting, protecting and celebrating African-American culture and traditions in the years after World War II up to the civil rights movement. Yet her name has been all but forgotten—she doesn’t even have that most basic of 21st century acknowledgements, a Wikipedia page … As the first food editor for Ebony magazine, DeKnight wrote a photo-driven monthly column that offered her home economist’s tips, as well as regional recipes from the “Negro community” of home cooks, professional chefs, caterers, restaurateurs and celebrities … DeKnight presented a more nuanced and often glamorous image of African-American cooking and culture—not just to African-American readers, but to the broader world.”

  • Okay, okay, we’ve put it off for long enough—it’s time to consider the laundry chute, the quiet workhorse of the domestic sphere, always there for you and your soiled garments, always ready to serve as an escape hatch for the beleaguered heroes of children’s movies. Sarah Minor writes, “A laundry chute is a mythic domestic space. It’s an unwatched door to nowhere, the open throat of an old home. Its reputation has as much to do with convenience as with the early recognition that a house is not solid through and through. The laundry chute is a place where stains and embarrassing odors go to be erased, and dropping linen down the chute is a mnemonic for forgetting those embarrassments, for making such accidents invisible. Most of a laundry chute is sealed behind walls, and this covert quality draws people to encounter such items that laundry chutes are built explicitly to contain.”
  • Ulka Anjaria on the sense of loss in Arundhati Roy: “When I teach The God of Small Things to my students, we discuss Roy’s transition away from fiction as emblematic of the very violence she describes in the novel … Roy’s novel began as a small thing, a rejoinder to the violences of patriarchy, caste, and party politics, a clearing of space for voices that otherwise would have drowned, unnoticed. But it got taken over by the roar of international publishing markets, the exoticization and commodification of brown women’s bodies, and the unequal relations between India and the West, turning The God of Small Things into another notch in the global capitalist-patriarchal enterprise. I understand it now—it is an ironic footnote to the novel’s own story—how The God of Small Things became something else entirely from the novel she had written, and how once Roy saw it happening, she turned resolutely away.”