I missed this when it came out and I see it has (rightly) picked up a bunch of awards. Not the Pulitzer admittedly, but it’s not a Pulitzer book.
What it is is a damn good read, a hugely insightful rummage around in the mucky underwear of the punk era and, at times, a heartbreaking tale of one woman’s battle with life.
Viv Albertine was the guitarist in The Slits, but by her own admittance it was a struggle to get there. She painfully explains the process by which she found her voice as meanwhile, Ari Up, the child singer of the band confidently found her own precocious style.
It’s kind of a rags to rags story with a lot, and I mean a LOT, of bodily fluids shared along the way.
But it’s hugely engaging, often hilarious and deeply affecting. Her moral code is set up for all to see, to be challenged but stoutly defended throughout. It’s fair to say Viv has had a few encounters.
Her style of writing is particularly engaging. She has no aspirations to be the next Donna Tartt but she can, and does, write a great story flitting about, as it does, in time sharing with us the minutiae of fashion in London in the 70’s. (In a small way like Tartt’s ex lover, Brett Easton Elliss, does in American Psycho)
Her description of John Lydon ‘s performance on stage with the Sex Pistols is a highlight and viscerally recreates that whole scene and, more importantly, the culture behind it.
It drives along relentlessly.
And of course, you reach the end of the punk era with a sense of disappointment. The rest, about half of the book, remains. How can it hold our interest ?
But not only does it do that, it actually gets even better as we hear of her terrible failed marriage, her horrendous IVF treatments, cancer and her uncertain return to the big stage.
OK, it’s a music book. But in reality it’s the tale of a tortured woman who had a lot of fun.
It’s compelling and I urge you to buy it.