I’ve been slowly working my way through the Martin Millar catalog. The dazzling Suzy, Led Zeppelin and Me was my first exposure to Millar’s work (my review – synopsis: it’s way better than the title would have you believe). I followed it up with two more that delved into the Brixton squat scene that was the crucible for British punk – Milk, Sulphate, and Alby Starvation (my review) and Lux the Poet (my review). Although these books were written more than a decade ago, they are only slowing being released here in the states. Recently, two more Brixton-centric Millar novels have come stateside. The first, and my favorite of the two, is Dreams of Sex and Stage Diving. With a title like that, it has to go first.
Millar returns to a Brixton of wayward British youth being bounced from various squats, living on the dole, and not doing much of anything with the rest of their lives. Our heroine (with an “e”) is Elfish – disgusting, unbathed, and completely self-absorbed. Elfish was the top stage diver in all of Brixton until a falling out with her best friend and an acrimonious split with her boyfriend sent her into a tailspin. Still, she’s convinced that if she can just steal her band’s name back from her ex and his band, things might just work out.
For all of her faults, Elfish becomes something of a leader for a long list of Brixton losers. Her single-minded determination (and flagrant lies to everyone she meets) begins to have a positive effect on everyone she comes into contact with. It might be that their lives have become so desperate, repetitive, and completely lacking of any initiative whatsoever, that a glimmer of hope for something better – no matter how grim the package that the hope arrives in – may be just the thing that they all need to turn it around.
Dreams of Sex and Stage Diving is a fun read. Millar once again mines the crushing ambivalence of Thatcher-era youth for gold. And he largely succeeds. If there were any justice, this novel would have been made into an art house movie 20 years ago that showcased the “real” punks of Brixton – the kind of movie where the accents are so thick that American viewers are baffled about 70% of the time. Elfish would have gotten it made.