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This Is Memorial Device by David Keenan

This Is Memorial Device

by David Keenan

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I love Keenan's earlier book (England's Hidden Reverse) on some of my favorite bands (Coil, Current 93, etc.). So when I found out he wrote a work of fiction about a band that never was, I was intrigued. Reading it feels a lot like talking to the guy we all knew growing up who was super weird and talked too fast and just knew obscure details about music and bands but you never quite knew if he was telling the truth. (I grew up obsessed with a handful of bands in an era before the internet, so hunting for that one record your favorite musician played with a different band that no one has ever heard of was our regular weekend routine). So I totally get Keenan's aesthetic and who he's writing to (I think it's me). But I also had a hard time reading the book, mostly because Keenan's writing style really does emulate the language of a teenager who's trying really hard to keep up with all the music fans around him who he's sure know more than he does. I get it. It's 16-year-old me. But god, 16-year-old me was apparently annoying.

I totally get what's going on in this book, and I love it in principle, but it was still a slog to get through.
  firepile | Jun 21, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Is Scotland as bleak a place as its authors make it out to be? Or is it just Scottish authors of a particular generation who have such a downbeat outlook on life? This is Memorial Device is, ostensibly, the story of an obscure Scottish band that had its brief moment of--well, maybe not glory, but at least a place in the dingy spotlight. But this book isn't about music; it is about the band and the circle of people related to it in one way or another and about slices of their life during and after the band's existence. It is difficult to keep track of who is narrating as there are two main narrators and other chapters told from the point of view of other characters. In the end, it doesn't matter, because it is not a linear story with a beginning, middle, and end. It's more like a series of snapshots you have to arrange yourself--and when you do, the collage you end up with is bittersweet, tragic, occasionally funny, and never less than engrossing. As an American reading this, I was swept into an alien landscape, only vaguely familiar from other novels or music. I didn't identify with any of the characters, and I didn't want to be any of them, but I did find myself trying to hold on to the fleeting bits of happiness they occasionally find. i still can't quite imagine what Memorial Device sounds like, which is probably a good thing given the author's descriptions of their various shows. But I can understand the place the band filled in the lives of these characters, who, despite their peculiarities--or because of them--don't seem fictional at all. ( )
  datrappert | Jun 13, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I want to echo a review I just read about this book, that there is a handy appendix with all of the characters who are "interviewed" or even just mentioned at the back of the book- this should very much be in the front of the book. When describing this book to friends, I would say that it is like reading a bunch of oral histories about a famous band (let's just say The Clash) except you have NO prior knowledge about the band at all- not about the members, their music, NOTHING. Which makes it a very confusing book to read. It took me months to read this book, mostly because it was so hard to get into. I was never quite sure who was talking about whom, what the time period was... I am considering re-reading the book, with special attention to that appendix I mentioned. But it's frustrating to think that I would have to read a book twice just to get the general gist of it, even if it would probably be a very good read the second time around. Who has time for that? Not me, usually. ( )
  W.MdO | May 18, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
After all, it isn’t easy being Iggy Pop in a small town in the west of Scotland. It takes some kind of commitment.”

I loved this "oral history" of a legendary band that never was. It's a terrific and clever first novel by David Keenan, and it's great fun.

Given the setting, I suppose it's inevitable to hear some of Irvine Welsh's TRAINSPOTTING in here. But for all that, it's a novel that transcends its immediate setting. Keenan's wisdom, humor, and tenderness give his story a universal appeal. I was reminded variously of Roddy Doyle's THE COMMITMENTS, Tom Perrotta's THE WISHBONES, and the mockumentary film "This Is Spinal Tap," among others.

Each chapter is an interview or something similar from various people who had something to do with the band or the community, all of it assembled and edited by two "superfans." It even includes a discography and index. Each voice is unique, and each chapter works on its own as a standalone piece. But the way the parts all come together in the end is absolutely brilliant. (It really is.)

The chapter titles alone are worth the price of admission: “An Inoculation Against Spirit-Devouring Life as Practised in the West Coast of Scotland,” "Kitty-Catting Into the Night Burglarising My Dreams," "Holdin Cells fur Oerweight Ballerinas," and so on.

Read this book.

(Thanks to Faber & Faber for a complimentary copy in exchange for an unbiased review.) ( )
  Wickabod | Apr 25, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received this copy of This is Memorial Device through the Early Reviewers program. I was excited to about receiving this book because I'm a big fan of 80's music and am interested in blue collar books set in the UK.

I enjoyed this book somewhat, though it could have been a much better experience. The author did a nice job with lending unique voices to each of his chapters and giving the narrator a their own point of view. However, I was often confused about who was speaking and what their relationship to the band was. It was not until I was about halfway through the book that I spotted the glossary of participants in the back and used that to help identify who was who.

My feedback to the author (publisher?) is to put that info in the front of the book, or at least reference it in the beginning. Using this index would have made the book much more enjoyable throughout.

I do recommend the book, but recommend with the caveat that the ready make use of the character index from the beginning. ( )
1 vote DuffDaddy | Apr 20, 2018 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0571330835, Paperback)

This Is Memorial Device, the debut novel by David Keenan, is a love letter to the small towns of Lanarkshire in the west of Scotland in the late 1970s and early 80s as they were temporarily transformed by the endless possibilities that came out of the freefall from punk rock. It follows a cast of misfits, drop-outs, small town visionaries and would-be artists and musicians through a period of time where anything seemed possible, a moment where art and the demands it made were as serious as your life. At its core is the story of Memorial Device, a mythic post-punk group that could have gone all the way were it not for the visionary excess and uncompromising bloody-minded belief that served to confirm them as underground legends. Written in a series of hallucinatory first-person eye-witness accounts that capture the prosaic madness of the time and place, heady with the magic of youth recalled, This Is Memorial Device combines the formal experimentation of David Foster Wallace at his peak circa Brief Interviews With Hideous Men with moments of delirious psychedelic modernism, laugh out loud bathos and tender poignancy.

(retrieved from Amazon Fri, 10 Feb 2017 06:46:17 -0500)

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