With a title like that, you’ve got to write a good book or have the word “wanker” silently appended to your name forever after. Just to make things more difficult, the press release trumpets the fact that The Book Of Fuck was written in seven days. I don’t know about your criteria for choosing a book to read, but something written in seven days sounds to me like it will be a cramp-stomached vomit of speed-crazed gibberish, especially if the back cover states it’s “a buckled break-neck rant let loose at punk rock speed”.
Thankfully, none of these things are true. The Book Of Fuck is a homage and a pisstake of the twilight world of music journalism, a first person reportage of a starving hack sent off in search of a death metal antichrist superstar called, to the joy of America’s Christian masses, the God Of Fuck. GoF is like Marilyn Manson, Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop and GG Allin all rolled into one – the bogeyman of popular culture. But GoF doesn’t get much of a look-in even though the search for him propels the plot – the pages are taken up with the internal monologue of our protagonist, a mix of furious punning, musical musing and starving artist clichés twisted into new shapes, all set against his love of London’s squalid glamour. It’s a prose style that can certainly be called punk rock, but the tone of our hero is far more gentle and even genteel than even the most half-hearted sneer from Mr Rotten. He’s a Cat Stevens’ fan, for Christ’s sake.
That notwithstanding, there’s a touch of Hunter S. Thompson to the prose, which is a compliment not to be awarded likely because The Book Of Fuck echoes HST’s style without trying to ape it. It runs in parallel to rather than behind it, connecting a mordant intelligence with a sense of amused bewilderment at the predictments in which the narrator continually finds himself.
As someone who used to read the music papers religiously as a teenager, back in the golden era of Melody Maker at the end of the 80s, The Book Of Fuck has a lot of resonance with that time, before intelligent music journalism all but disappeared underneath the market forces of dad rock and prepubescent marketing exercises. (Can’t we ban The Beatles ever being featured on another magazine cover ever?). The Book Of Fuck doesn’t offer up anything particularly profound, but it does provide a superb black humoured roadtrip of the soul in search of profundity, which is possibly even better.
And, as the work of a small UK publisher, Wrecking Ball Press, The Book Of Fuck has superb production values: from the size to the spacing to the use of fonts, this is a book that wants to be read. Sadly there are numerous typos scattered through it, but then, that’s very punk rock too so I guess I’ll have to live with it.