Monday, 6 June 2016

Carl Stanley's Kiss & Make Up

I purchased my copy of Carl Stanley's memoir, an artful blend of comedy and tragedy telling not just Carl's story but also a substantial chunk of his mums, at last years Louder Than Words festival in Manchester. I felt a bit out of my league amidst the music journalists so I mainly lurked around the publishers as I seemed to be less tongue tied and intimidated around them.

Anyway, Steve Pottinger was there as Ignite Books, and I bought both Ross Lomas' book City Baby, his tale of life in and out of the legendary punk band GBH, and also Kiss & Make Up by the previously unknown to me Carl Stanley.

Both books were excellent, and hysterically funny at times, and there was the added advantage that, once I'd finished reading them both, I knew other people who would love to read them too.

Kiss & Make Up tells the story of Carl's growing up in Birmingham, and coming of age in the post punk 1980s. A precocious young man, with a rapidly burgeoning sexuality, Carl's tentative worshipping of Toyah leads on to him dipping his toe into the new romantic scene, before falling headlong into a world of clubbing, gay pubs, increasingly elaborate dress up, and sexual encounters. The young Carl makes mistakes, of course, and his relationship with his mum becomes increasingly fraught, which leads to one of the most surprising aspects of the book: the flashbacks to, and interweaving of, his mothers story with his own.

In some respects (but by no means all as both books are structured very differently) the story inhabits similar ground to Bertie Marshall's memoir, Berlin Bromley, which begins its story just before Carl's. The two books would make good companion reads, and transcend both the memoir and gay coming of age tags.

That said, Kiss & Make Up has just been long listed for this years Polari Prize, the shortlist for which will be announced in July.

Looking at the long list, it's interesting to note how many of the titles were published by small, independent publishers, to the extent that a title published by Verso starts to look huge in comparison. The world of independent publishing is certainly alive and well but its thriving success does rather underline a lack of variety of experience, story, and interest at the largest of our publishing houses. Phrases about popes, catholic, bears, woods spring to mind...

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