18 March 2015

My January "Book Watch" Column For The NZ Herald

Tracey Thorn, Bedsit Disco Queen: How I grew up and tried to be a pop star. (2014): http://www.amazon.com/Bedsit-Disco-Queen-grew-tried-ebook/dp/B0091LLMXI/ - print and ebook 

In reviews and interviews, my favourite book of 2014, Viv Albertine’s Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys., was often compared to Tracey Thorn's Bedsit Disco Queen, so I was keen to read that as well.

And though it is a much less dramatic book than Albertine’s, I enjoyed it. Tracey Thorn is the best part of a decade younger, grew up in musical genres less vivid than punk, and comes across as a much more reserved and contained character. But she writes very well about her life, her stubborn determination to pursue her music, and the career somewhere just south of fame she has maintained.

Bernard Sumner, Chapter and Verse: New Order, Joy Division and Me (2014): http://www.amazon.com/Chapter-Verse-New-Order-Division-ebook/dp/B00LI5598Y/ - print and ebook

Though Bernard Sumner does not write as well as Viv Albertine or Tracey Thorn, I still found his memoir fascinating - both because I love the music of Joy Division and New Order, and because his origins in Salford in the 1950s have many parallels with my own in Grimsby a few years later.

New Order were famous for their hedonism, but I was pleased that in this memoir he dials that down to focus more on music and personalities. If you are interested in the music of the post-punk and acid house eras, or if you are keen to read an English perspective that is distinctly Northern, I think you'll enjoy this book.

Martin Edmond, Winged Sandals (2014): http://rosamirabooks.com/books/index.html#ws  - ebook

This essay, part of Rosa Mira Books' 10K series, likens taxi drivers to Hermes, the wing-footed messenger of the Gods - hence the title. Winged Sandals may be only 10,000 words long, but it's a fascinating meditation on taxi driving, writing, the ways they are alike, and the complex relationship between the work writers do to make a living and the effect doing such work has on their writing and on their self-image as a writer.

Artists will identify with Martin Edmond’s struggle to balance his passion with his finances. Whether you’re facing the same struggle, or would like to know what it feels like for people who are, this is recommended.

Julie Hill, ShameJoy (2014): http://www.giantsparrowpress.com/bookshop.html - print

I read ShameJoy on a recent trip from Wellington to Auckland. Reading on planes isn't usually my thing - I get bored and distracted easily - but that wasn't the case with ShameJoy - I very much enjoyed both the style and the substance of this book. These deftly constructed, sardonic stories often edge from the real into the surreal and back again, but Julie Hill’s humour is a constant to be relied upon. A fine debut for both the author and for Giant Sparrow Press, another impressive new New Zealand publisher.

Tim Jones is a Wellington author, poet and editor. His latest book is anthology The Stars Like Sand: Australian Speculative Poetry (2014), which he co-edited with P.S. Cottier. Find out more at http://timjonesbooks.blogspot.co.nz/

1 comment:

Harvey Molloy said...

Latika loved the Tracey Thorn book; I might have a crack at Bernard's book one holiday. Interesting selection, Tim.