Published August 10th 2017 by Picador
Author: Graham Caveney
Star rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“She says things like, Neural Pathways, and Emotional Processing, and Some Success with Veterans from the Vietnam War.”
Synopsis (from back of book):
This is the story of an atypical Accrington adolescence, as the tail end of the seventies sees Graham Caveney begin a lifelong obsession with music and books. It’s an obsession that quickly sees him transform from altar boy into Kafka-quoting teenager, and in the process provides him with a potential route out of small town life.
But for Graham, this cultural awakening would come with a significant condition attached: years of horrifying abuse at the hands of one of his most trusted teachers…
By turns angry, despairing, insightful, always acutely written and often shockingly funny, The Boy With The Perpetual Nervousness is an astonishing memoir, startling in its authenticity and originality.
Note: This review is from reading the Advance Proof Copy
The first time I ever saw Graham Caveney in person was when he was a guest at a local poetry event, talking about beat poets, and his books on William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg.
Then he went off my radar for a bit, until I was told about his upcoming memoir. I received an advance proof copy of the book the day before I was set to interview him for The Beestonian. This would mean power-reading as much of it as I possibly could.
Luckily, the book is very easy to read and very easy to get engrossed in. The writing style is almost diary-like, but merges with a sense that you’re getting thoughts coming straight from Caveney’s mind. There’s no barrier, this is his story and he will tell it to you.
Each chapter begins with the word ‘Next’ which is a quirk I particualrly like, and suits a memoir of this kind. Caveney is writing about his past, his childhood, so there’s a certain level of remembrance and holding onto memories and a time since gone. Yet his ‘next’ just takes us from part to part, moving somehow seamlessly through a book and a life that begins with abuse.
Another feature I like is the fact that each chapter also starts with a quote. If I were to write my memoir, or a book, I would also incorporate this feature. They showcase Caveney’s love for music and literature, and how these various quotes may have influence and shaped his thinking and his experience as an adolescent.
There’s also humour. There were plenty of moments that made me smile, and laugh. This is odd for a book about abuse, but it’s an enjoyable read, and Caveney manages to locate a rare area where he can discuss his abuse openly, with complete honest and retrospection, but the book and the narrative is still enjoyable for the reader. But nothing is taken away or hidden, and although there’s a sense of anger in places, the time of the abuse is told as a story, as it occured, as it developed. It would be tempting for someone who suffered to lace their words with hate and regret, but this would mask the true core of the nature of the abuse, and Graham manages to avoid this. Although it’s easy to read, with a brilliant, witty style, it can’t have been easy to write and I have a huge amount of respect for the author and this book’s existence in the world.
I could open this book at any point and begin re-reading it, or parts of it. There’s nostalgia, innocence, music, literature, a voice, and a life. And it’s quite something to read most of it in the space of a few hours.
At my first read, I was impressed and delighted at how much I enjoyed it, especially for a book of this kind, with the kind of subject matter it contains. It’s quite something, and if you see this book on the shelf I highly recommend you pick it up.
It was a pleasure to meet and interview Graham while I was just over half-way through his book, and you can read my interview with him here: Interview with Graham Caveney.
If you want to find out more about Graham and the story behind the book and how it came into existence, then read this interview by Matt Turpin from Nottingham City of Literature: Perpetual Writer: We Meet Graham Caveney.
Link to the book on Goodreads: The Boy With The Perpetual Nervousness