Tuesday, April 20

Tracey Thorn: ‘I handled 10% of War and Peace during the lockdown’ | Books


The book I am currently reading
Tango: my childhood, backwards and in high heels by Justin Vivian Bond. A trans / queer childhood memory of the cabaret artist I was lucky enough to see on stage at Joe’s Pub in New York. I wish I could be back in that room right now, but in the meantime, this book will suffice.

The book that made me change my mind
There were books I read in college that completely opened my mind. It would include among them that of Kate Millett Sexual politics, the poetry of William Blake, Frantz Fanon The wretches of the earth, By Virginia Woolf Jacob’s roomBy George Eliot Middlemarch and the poetry of Sylvia Plath.

The book that I think is most underrated
By Billie Holiday The lady sings the blues. For years it was exhausted, and it was also semi-discarded for its inaccuracy and omissions, legal threats forced her to put aside some of her relationships with famous men and women. I read it as a teenager when I was discovering Holiday’s music and learning about different ways to sing loudly. It would be a long time before I read another musical memoir that was so frank and revealing, and had such a distinctive voice.

Billie Holiday with her dog Mister, 1947.
Billie Holiday with her dog Mister, 1947. Photograph: MediaPunch Inc / Alamy

The book I wish I had written
Mary Shelley Frankenstein. I still can’t forget the fact that an 18-year-old, on vacation with two radical poets, came up with the idea for a gothic horror novel that was so successful that it has endured for 200 years.

The last book that made me laugh
Kevin Barry’s That old country music. This recent collection of stories is beautiful and full of lines that made me laugh out loud.

The last book that made me cry
In the end it was all about love by Musa Okwonga: a story of anguish, loneliness and racism in Berlin. Beautifully told, and the unwavering honesty touched me greatly.

The book that I give you as a gift
Always something different, depending on the gifted. For Christmas I gave Ben [Watt, her husband] a copy of Lows, mids, tops: An Oral History of Sound Systems Culture by Joe Muggs and Brian David Stevens. I gave one daughter a Joan Didion and the other a book on the brain, and since she is a huge fan of Joy Division and New Order, my youngest daughter received Recording playback pause by Stephen Morris.

The book I would like to be remembered for
I think I’m more likely to be remembered for a single line in a song, about deserts and rain, than for anything else I can write. And it’s much more likely that they don’t actually remember me at all, which is fine.

The book that I couldn’t finish
I started Tolstoy War and peace during the crash, and I got 10% of the way according to my Kindle, which didn’t seem bad, all things considered. I was enjoying it, but my brain just doesn’t have the stamina right now.

My consolation read
Lolly willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner. A woman gets tired of being used as a doormat and thus, reaching a certain age, she goes to live alone in the country, where she finds true happiness and discovers that she is a witch. I am very consoled by this idea.

My Rock’n’Roll Friend by Tracey Thorn is a Canongate post (£ 16.99). To order a copy, go to guardianbookshop.com. Shipping charges may apply.


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