Wood, Talc and Mr. J – We never had it so good…
It’s a time of great social and political upheaval – industrial disputes and bullying unions, racial discord and the National Front. 1978, it’s a Britain on the brink. It’s also a Britain of definite youth cultures, when the wrong attire on the wrong street might equal a beating for your blunder, often regardless of your football allegiance…
A look back. Without the rose-tinted spectacles, but with hindsight and humour, and with poignancy and affection.
Phillip sees life in a simplistic if passionate way: up or down, us and them, black, white and nothing in-between. When not doing his ‘thing’ in Wigan’s Casino Club – voted ‘The Greatest Disco in the World’ by Billboard Magazine – Phillip hates the world. Or at least he thinks he does. He longs for the weekend, or a greater, permanent escape from the daily grind of factory life in an industrial town.
With a little imagination, he might realise things midweek aren’t that bad: there’s the loving family, the secure job amid mass unemployment, a relationship with the perfect young woman… Or maybe he realises too late. And all he’d deemed important was only ever an illusion, his reflected image included.
Coming full circle by way of loss and more loss, you would hope lessons are learned…
The book progresses through myriad dream sequences, interwoven song-themes, a father’s philosophical ramblings, ever blackening wit, leitmotif – or seemingly recurring scenes; is someone laughing at our hero? And Phillip’s own, lyrical, strut-like, black or white manner.
Dancehall adventures via train rides to Heaven, scooter cruising almost coast to coast. Beneath the pier encounters with the opposite sex, et al… set against the birth of Scargill and Thatcher feuding…
About the Author
Born and bred in the city of steel: Sheffield. Spent - or misspent, whichever your viewpoint - the majority of his 'young' years on the Northern Soul circuit. It's around this time and place that his novel is set - 'Wood, Talc and Mr. J: We never had it so good...' His academic education came much later, from scratch, in a sense. In time, he fell in love with the idea of languages, French in particular, and went on to get a BA Hons in French Language and Literature with subsidiary Spanish, at The University of Sheffield. He was a 'mature student', though maybe not as mature as he would like to think, looking back... After which, he moved down south - mid 90s - and eventually further still to the South of France for a few years, where he taught English. He then moved up to northern France to do much the same thing. But it was here where he also began to write, or experiment with writing. He came back to England in the mid-00s and lived in North London for five years, teaching and writing again. And for the last so many years, he's lived in Norwich, where he's completed a Masters in Literary Translation, at the UEA - he likes to believe he's most definitely mature now! He's now working his way toward making a living by writing, with a little translation on the side... He tends to be picky about books, and take his time reading them; he expects each word to count; something he can go back to, read again - and again. Things witty, satirical, poetic... Moving. Favourite writers of late? Maybe Markas Zusak. Anna Funder, her 'All That I Am'. Actually, he's only just discovered Kurt Vonnegut, and read 'The Slaughterhouse Five'. All that being said, he is a bit of a Conan-Doyle fanatic... Soulful writers, and their soulful things. And maybe he tries to emulate them. Same goes for his taste in films, music... and people.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
"Wood, Talc and Mr. J" is an unusual book both in the humble yet thought-provoking way it explores life, and the beauty of its writing. There are far few books of this quality published at any time. Don't miss this one, by a talented writer named Chris Rose whose work I had never previously explored. The story is deceptively straight-forward on its surface: Phillip lives life simply, but with passion; he sees his world as a series of binary choices: up, down; yes, no; us,them; black or white. He does his disco his ‘thing’ in a club voted ‘The Greatest Disco in the World’ by Time Magazine. But disco is hardly enough, or rather his parody of the life he doesn't live. Living for the weekend is all he has: his workaday week in an industrial town is numbing. We see his world through his eyes, and suffer quietly with this man embarked upon an empty life full of loss and more loss of everything that makes us human -- not only loved ones, but love of self, self respect, and accomplishment. Strutting in a dance floor is making things worse, not better... And his dreams... his dreams are where the magic of his life hides. This book reminds me of the best fiction of the 1950s and early sixties, when the meaning of life was the only quest that mattered. In it, you'll see and experience things you never thought about, things you should think about. Read this book about honesty and compassion and misery and transcendence.
Wood, Talc and Mr. J is a tale of a rite of passage from adolescent to adulthood set in the 1970s. Chris Rose’s brilliant portrayal of the bygone era made me feel as if I stepped back into time. The main character Phillip is a vivid character that tells his story in a very moving way with captivating British humor. I adore Grom! Grom is a compelling character; I would love for her to tell her story! Aunt Ida is a riot! The author did a phenomenal job in evoking the spirit of the 70s through food, music, and pastimes. I enjoyed how Rose wove in historical events and royalty. Rose’s crafty prose made the scenes come alive in my mind, and I thought to myself this should be a TV series! This book is a perfect archetypal of clever witticisms. Chris Rose has an original and compelling writing style that is evocative and entertaining. It was a pleasure reading your book Chris Rose, and I am looking forward to your next book!
You never know where Phillip [aka Chris Rose] will take you next in this fascinating book. An original voice expressed through the main character, Phillip, takes us through the harrowing, surreal world of a young man on the cusp of adulthood. Poignant, dark and disjointed one minute, hilarious the next, this book is filled with one surprise after another. The best bits play ruthlessly with words, images, places,people and events in the most unexpected ways. The simplest everyday things like eating, riding the bus, and hanging with grandma are reinvented once they've passed through Phillip's mind and are spat upon the page in wonderfully written snippets. At times I feared for Phillip, other times rooted him on in his unabashed deconstruction of taken for granted moments in the mass culture of his day. Not all of those moments are familiar to me, btw, as a non-Brit, so I'm sure there are even more witticisms to be enjoyed by those who grew up in a time and place similar to the one inhabited by Phillip. I hope the lad finds his way in the 1970s-British-world-gone-mad universe the author has dumped him, as Phillip comes of age. I also wish I could categorize this book but that's not easy. Part of me wonders if A Clockwork Orange had been written by Monty Python it might have looked more like this...less ultra-violence and more ultra-absurdity. I don't know. Just read the book. The experience is well-worth it.
Mind Blowing Prose! This is a unique, brilliant, and intricate novel. Don't let my description scare you. It is also a fun read! The story takes place in the late '70s in the north of England, during the time of the Iron Lady (Margaret Thatcher), and Monty Python. This is not a tale of a posh Londoner with piles of money and titles. Instead it's the story of Phillip and his dreams, his hopes, and his opinions. Don’t attempt to read this book while waiting for the bus, or if you have only a moment. Take the time to get into the amazing prose, and the cultural references. This quote is a good example of author Chris Rose’s style: “Had I been in his place, I’d have spent most of my day in this seat, faking reads of the pseudo-journalistic refuse, peeping over its pages at the latest angelic apprentice, as I did as a customer--- weren’t barbershops supposed to be a male thing?”
This book is a poetic, lyrical exploration of a boy's formative years - ultimately a story that anyone can relate to, it provides enjoyable nostalgia for anyone who actually knows or remembers Northern England and the 1970s, but this is not a requirement if you are going to enjoy what is by turns a funny, warm and touching account of a young man's struggle with family, girls, work and peer-pressure - in short, finding himself and growing up! The writing style is completely original and intelligent, with the author playfully including exerpts from Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, William Blake, John Milton etc. A thoroughly engaging and enjoyable read! I'm looking forward to the sequel and would highly recommend this book! Fantastic!