A British journalist and critic tells the story of a working-class adolescence overshadowed by traumatic experiences with sexual abuse at the hands of a teacher.
The son of northern English Catholic parents, Caveney (Screaming with Joy: The Life of Allen Ginsberg, 1999, etc.) was a “devout child” who didn’t know he was working-class until he was in grammar school and “met people who weren’t.” He worked through his feelings of rejection and made friends with fellow outsiders. Together, they bonded over the music of Patti Smith, the Pretenders, and Joy Division while Caveney found personal solace in the novels of Kafka. As he grew up and became more critical of his world, he began to hate the “parochiality [and]…lack of imagination” that characterized the people around him. His life changed drastically after he met “Rev. Kev,” the rebel English teacher at his Catholic high school who “smoked ‘pot’…[and] was into Stevie Wonder.” Drawn to Rev. Kev’s culture and intelligence, Caveney regularly chatted with his teacher about books, ideas, and his hatred of the “small-souled petty-minded white working class.” Their conversations led to a night out to the theater, which ended with the Rev. Kev’s forcing himself on Caveney before taking him home. Unwilling to speak of that episode and of many similar ones that followed, the author kept the molestation a secret from his parents. The author ultimately broke free of his teacher’s influence; but the helplessness and rage simmering just below the surface impacted almost every subsequent personal relationship he had. Even more devastatingly, it pushed the adult Caveney into “psych wards, rehabs, [and] therapists’ offices” to find answers for the anguish that continued to torment him long after he left home. Despite its dark subject matter, the book is neither hopeless nor despairing thanks in large part to the author’s mordant wit. Caveney seeks to understand pain and find redemption through the very act of surviving.
Raw, compelling, and darkly lyrical.