The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness: A Memoir of an Adolescence
A Sunday Times Book of the Year'Passionate and courageous, insightful and humane, funny and moving, this is a wonderful book' David Nicholls, author of One DayGraham Caveney was born in 1964 in Accrington: a town in the north of England, formerly known for its cotton mills, now mainly for its football team. Armed with his generic Northern accent and a record collection including the likes of the Buzzcocks and Joy Division, Caveney spent a portion of his youth pretending he was from Manchester. That is, until confronted by someone from Manchester (or anyone who had been to Manchester or anyone who knew anything at all about Manchester) at which point he would give up and admit the truth. In The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness, Caveney describes growing up as a member of the 'Respectable Working Class'. From aspiring altar boy to Kafka-quoting adolescent, his is the story of a teenage boy's obsession with music, a love affair with books, and how he eventually used them to plot his way out of his home town. But this is also a story of abuse.For his parents, education was a golden ticket: a way for their son to go to university, to do better than they did, but for Graham, this awakening came with a very significant condition attached. For years Graham's headteacher, a Catholic priest, was his greatest mentor, but he was also his abuser. As an adult, Graham Caveney is still struggling to understand what happened to him, and he writes about the experience - all of it - and its painful aftermath with a raw, unflinching honesty. 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 originality.
A compelling, often hilarious, and exceptionally powerful account of an 80s adolescence navigated via literature and music, the English class system - and the impact of and recovery from abuse.
What Caveney achieves in this powerful, distinctive memoir is the positioning of his repeated sexual abuse into the landscape of an early Eighties adolescence . . . By turns honest, angry, funny, thoughtful, acerbic and desperately sad . . . Caveney impressively resists reaching easy conclusions . . . The book is percussive with black gags, as Caveney attacks the contradictions of his teenage years. -- Richard Beard * Guardian * Caveney . . . writes with such robust, defiant attack that he never leaves the reader feeling like a prurient spy. His anger is blistering, any comedy not so much black as bile green . . . Caveney tells the story of his life brilliantly, but still you wish there was another one he could have written. * Sunday Times * [The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness] is often bleakly funny and, alongside its troubling main theme, tells a more tender story of adolescent male friendship, unspoken parental love and music's redemptive power . . . [Caveney's] voice on the page is humane, big-hearted and without self-pity . . . it demands to be read. * Guardian * A defiant, important memoir . . . Graham Caveney recounts with great courage and candour how, in the 1970s, as the clever, awkward, nerdy, only child of devoutly Catholic working-class parents in Accrington, Lancashire, he was groomed by a priest at his local grammar school in Blackburn, and then sexually abused by him. [A] well-structured, rounded memoir. * Observer * The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness is a fascinating book, a hilarious book and a horrifying one. On the surface it is a vivid, funny memoir of growing up in 1970s Lancashire; a wry treatise on the British class system; a hymn to traditions, rituals, ways of life and habits of thought which are already sliding into oblivion. At its core, however, lies something darker, much harder to talk about, and profoundly disturbing. It's a book which blew me away and shook me to the core. -- Jonathan Coe The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness is about the dark ironies of growing up working class and Catholic in a small industrial town. It is an incredibly powerful book about addiction (to alcohol), music, politics and books and the long road to recovery. -- Julie Hesmondhalgh * Observer * Devastating and wonderful. A story that is at times almost unbearable to read except that, in the telling, the story - and the man telling it - somehow, impossibly, become beautiful and whole. Like John Healy's The Grass Arena, Graham Caveney's book is an instant classic. -- Howard Cunnell Fascinating - an honest and funny book about a clever kid growing up in the North and the long ranging effects of trauma. -- Cathy Rentzenbrink Extraordinary . . . brilliantly detailed, vivid and frequently very funny . . . A remarkable feat. -- Editor's Choice * The Bookseller *
Graham Caveney is a freelance writer. He has written on music and fiction for the NME, The Face and the Independent. He is the author of two previous books, on William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg.