An enthralling, emotional memoir that recounts the ups and downs of coming-of-age, set against the music and literature of the 1970s.
Raised in a small town in the north of England known primarily for its cotton mills, football team, and its deep roots in the “Respectable Working Class,” Graham Caveney armed himself against the confusing nature of adolescence with a thick accent, a copy of Kafka, and a record collection including the likes of the Buzzcocks and Joy Division. All three provided him the opportunity to escape, even if just in mind, beyond his small-town borders. But, when those passions are noticed and preyed upon by a mentor, everything changes.
Now, as an adult, Caveney attempts to reconcile his past and present, coming to grips with both the challenges and wonder of adolescence, music, and literature. By turns angry, despairing, beautifully written, shockingly funny, and ultimately redemptive, The Boy with Perpetual Nervousness is a tribute to the power of the arts—and a startling, original memoir that “feels as if it had to be written, and demands to be read” (The Guardian UK).
Caveney ( The Priest' They Called Him) delivers a sharp, poignant memoir of anxiety and abuse. Growing up bookishly skittish in working-class 1970s northern England "Writing about my working-class childhood feels like slipping on hand-me-down clothes" Caveney nevertheless plots his own arc, while emboldening himself with the books of Kafka and the music of the Buzzcocks and Joy Division. The chronological plot of his youth is laid out in cinematic detail, including his mother's dinners of meat and mushy peas ("food that is designed with insulation in mind") and his dalliances with revolutionary Marxism and capital-L Literature ("I told her that after the revolution everyone would be a poet"). But a shadowy fury underlies this nervous self-deprecation, borne out of his being raped as a teenager by a priest who groomed his insecurities with predatory calculation. As the memoir lurches forward in jaunts of youthful self-discovery and setbacks, Caveney writes with stabs of both fury and self-denial ("This doesn't matter. It's not important. I'm not even here") and anguished pleas to his abuser in order to make sense of it all. The result is an acidic, longing, and enraged memoir set to a postpunk soundtrack.