Candy and the Broken Biscuits: A long, meandering review in three stages.

I essentially wrote this review as I was reading the book, as sometimes I think it’s the best way – depending on the book, but often it’s the best way with fiction anyhow.

So, part 1:

I have started reading Lauren Laverne’s ‘Candy Pop: Candy and the Broken Biscuits’ alongside ‘Hogarth: A life and a world’, and it’s really good. (So is Hogarth, but it’s slow going and huge) It has the same sense of the absurd as the Louise Rennison Georgia Nicolson books, but with a more likeable heroine; the eponymous Candy Caine (allegedly named after Candy Darling in ‘Walk On The Wild Side’, or JAMC’s ‘Some Candy Talking’ – her mum can’t remember which. Meaning she is, in true contradictory fashion, named after either “a sensitive transvestite” or “a song everyone thinks is about drugs”) There’s a villainous stepfather – to – be figure, putting it on a par with Chrissie Glazebrook‘s ‘The Madolescents’, rather more than Anne Fine (‘Goggle Eyes’, ‘Step By Wicked Step’) and an eccentricly boisterous best mate (Louise Rennison again), but the authentic details as regards the heroines obsession with music are very real: the bedroom furniture, still that of a much younger girl, gradually being covered up by innumerable pictures of musicians, the technical detail of the heroines first guitar lesson, the soundtracking of life (walking around lost in a David Holmes soundtrack), the discovery of random bands and albums outside of their context and time frame (Television’s ‘Marquee Moon’.)

Although it’s just entered a slightly absurd stage, with the genie-like entry of a fairy (ahem) godbrother, so I’m not sure it’ll work entirely. I shall persevere though. Possibly it’s that this unforseen element reminds me too much of ‘Drop Dead Fred’ so far, but maybe it’s also that when, say, Terry Pratchett or Linda Jaivin mixed fantasy and Sci Fi elements with music, the combination was set up very early on. (See ‘Soul Music’ and ‘Rock’n’Roll Babes From Outer Space’) It didn’t jar in the same way it has here. But I like the characters and the tone (very deadpan, funny, quite dry, pitched just right) very much, so I’ll stick with it.

Part 2:

Actually, once you take the fairy godbrother onside, it’s really, really good. And realistic as well, in a way that ‘Guitar Girl’ just wasn’t. It has the lunacy of Louise Rennison and Chrissie Glazebrook at their best, the sweetness of Hilary McKay or Meg Cabot at the height of their powers (the kind of sweetness that is sweet but not sticky), and an authenticity and attention to detail of its very own.

Part 3:

Finished it!

Says on the inside back cover that part 2 is out next summer, so I shall look forward to that. If anyone was going to write a great novel for teenage girls about girls and music, I’m glad it’s Lauren Laverne. God knows, I’ve spent a ridiculously large chunk of my life trying to do the same, and I’m very pleased that someone else has accomplished it.

It’s probably really weird to feel like that, but I feel great about it – I’ve felt great since I started putting Screaming In Public up here actually, it made it all feel fun again, as opposed to doing lit agent submissions, which was just paralysingly horrible and depressing (increasingly). I kind of feel like I did when I heard the Sara Marcus book on Riot Grrrl was due out soon – only even better in this case. In both cases it’s the sense of ‘At last! Someone else is doing it!’ It removes the responsibility for doing it right from my already fragile (increasingly so) shoulders, for which I’m always insanely grateful.

I suspect this would be construed by many as a key personality flaw, much in the same way that doing all the necessary but unprestigious jobs on my team at work is, but in both cases I’ve always seen it as a virtue. I’m not the spotlight type, I’m very much a behind the scenes person. I think this is why I still feel very freaked out by the success of the punk women series on the F-Word, and the terrible responsibility (that I never planned for) that has come with it.

I am taking a break from the punk women series at the moment though, and am pleased to be doing so, especially as I checked Helen McCookerybook’s blog the other week, and saw she was hard at work at the paperback edition (next year?) of The Lost Women Of Rock Musicwhich I hope will be cheap enough for me and others to buy. I have had a very punk women soundtrack kind of day though, in that I woke up craving Laura Nyro. I resisted putting ‘Eli and the 13th Confession’ on for a bit because it’s my crisis record (or one of) and I was feeling woeful all week because of work related trauma (which I won’t go into…) and thought it would make me feel maudlin and tearful, but it didn’t, it got me smiling and packing up my bedding to take with the rest of my laundry to the launderette in no time at all. When I came back, I was a bit knackered (it’s a bit of a trek…) and bunged Florence and the Machine (‘Lungs’, all of it) on, and followed it up with ‘Hounds Of Love’ almost unthinkingly, as the three albums kind of go together, and I lived on them and the Santogold album for most of the second half of last year.. I have a taped soundtrack to the punk series, and whilst Laura didn’t make it, as she was the soundtrack to my pre-punk women piece meltdown circa May/June, she very much fits.

I also have strong memories of typing it up amidst blizzards in late December/early January to Sara and David’s mix cd’s, and particularly remember the songs I danced to to warm myself up: Architecture in Helsinki (‘Heart It Races’), and The Flirtations (‘Nothing But A Heartache’) The launderette is good for music too: Dub reggae usually, Alanis Morrisette (bleurgh!) the first time, Lily Allen once (good for a little bit, then it got tiresome) I live in hope of hearing Viv Goldman’s ‘Launderette’ one day, but it hasn’t happened yet. I was going to listen to the Blow Monkey’s and Carmel when I put my washing away again, but ended up doing so to Kate Bush instead.

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