The Other Life of Brian
By Graham Parker
Thunder’s Mouth Press – New York
The cross over between writing lyrics and writing fiction has never been a smooth and altogether successful transition. There have admittedly been the odd exceptions, such as John Lennon’s In His Own Write and A Spaniard In The Works – although these were nonsensical stories, rather than fiction per se – and the more recent collection of short stories by Steve Earl in Doghouse Roses. But by and large, writers of songs don’t necessarily make for good writers of books.
This may be so, simply because most pop stars don’t really have that much to say other than: I miss you, I love you, I want to have sex with you, I still miss you – but I now find myself hating the sight of you etc. Or, this might be so because most pop stars are just too ‘busy’ being pop stars.
Falling out of taxis at three in the morning without any knickers on, is, after all, far more of a second nature to most pop stars (of the female variety at least), than is reading the last Jeanette Winterson novel. Then again, would one really want to read a book written by a member of Snow Patrol or Lady Fucking Gaga?
The Other Life of Brian is Graham Parker’s third book – he has previously written a novel called The Great Trouser Mystery, along with a collection of short stories called Carp Fishing on Valium
. And whilst not exactly the most inspiring of titles, the book itself is something of a nod to Parker’s past.
Littered with literary rock’n’roll expertise, and surely only a knowledge gained from actually having been there, this book is a razzle-dazzle traipse through the back pages of Parker’s unquenchable thirst (and longing) for human understanding. Where he once asked the Lord to refrain from asking him questions, he now bequeaths his fan-base/readers with a formidable set of multiple choice questions and smokescreen answers, by way of protagonist Brian Porker (now there’s a name!).
Former acerbic front man with The Soulbilly Shakers – who scored a one off hit with ‘Knee Trembler’ in the 1970s – The Other Life of Brian is essentially about the trials and thorny tribulations of Porker’s tenuous relationship with his manager, Tarquin Steed (now there’s a name), and his altogether bonkers touring schedule. Bonkers as in the tour encompasses the nether regions of Scandinavia, Tasmania and the Arctic Circle, replete with cultists, extinct marsupials and crypto zoologists.
That the language is a tad cumbersome and weighty from the outset does little to detract from the overall picture of Parker’s imagination. That said, the Arctic Monkeys on tour it isn’t.
So without wanting to give too much away, lets just say the book casts a warts’n’all shadow of a doubt upon the transient world of sex and drugs and receding hairlines.