This summer, I will mostly be reading or re-reading Alfred Watkins’s The Old Straight Track Club (landscape lunacy); David Jones’s In Parenthesis (the greatest war-text ever written, alongside The Iliad); Graham Bowley’s No Way Down (an account of the 2008 K2 disaster); Stephen Banfield’s Sensibility And English Song (a magnificent study of the interrelations of English music and English poetry, particularly during the 1920s); and Rachel Hewitt’s Map Of A Nation (a history of the Ordnance Survey). Path, trench, mountain, song, map.
Bogged down by proof-reading, this summer’s reading has been slow. But it’s been largely by two books, both non-fiction (fiction is like live theatre, when it’s good it’s great, but when it’s bad it’s shocking). I’ve been dipping in and out of Dave Tompkins’ How To Wreck A Nice Beach, but the one that has had me hooked is The Restless Generation, Pete Frame’s account of how trad-jazz and skiffle transformed the climate of popular music in monochrome ’50s Britain. It’s a fantastic book, full of vivid vignettes of Soho cafes and proto-beatniks, but apparently it tanked when it was published a few years ago. Anyone remotely interested in the birth of modern British youth culture should pick this up, it’s essential reading.
Andy Vaughan was the original Cockney Latic, a young Wigan Athletic fan who found himself living in London as terrace fashions changed from bootboy and skinhead to scally and casual. As the title suggests, Faded Lois Dreams is a book all about the passing fashions and passions of most young men as they cope with life’s up and downs in a testosterone trance. Vaughan captures the thrill of living in the capital during this era of flux as only an outsider can; the streets, the pubs, the football grounds, the clubs, the shops, the music, the people, the buildings. Unlike most writers (including myself) who have attempted to portray the mutating styles and sounds of the casual sub-culture, Vaughan infuses his writing with an honesty and humanity that is both refreshing and rewarding. A must for anyone with the slightest interest in football, fashion and fucking.