Monday, April 8, 2013


by Ann Witherall
published 2012

A copy of this found its way into my hands. It's pretty great. It's a loose memoir/fiction novel set in the Melbourne punk scene of the late 1980s.

Annie (aka Agro) flees Adelaide at the young age of fifteen. She's determined to be a punk and the locals don't understand her, so she takes the train to Melbourne. She slips smoothly into the punk scene, and soon is squatting with two friends, Dee and Mel. The story is a mixture of annecdote and what feels like a lightly sculpted narrative.

Annie makes for an interesting lead character. She's saving up money to have cosmetic surgery, in order to conceal a scar across her torso. Ironically it was this scar that helped steer her into the punk scene, where being a freak is something to be proud of. I thought this apparent contradiction in her character gave the book an edge over similar stories.

In order to make quick money she travels back to Adelaide sporadically in order to buy marijuana by the pound. It seems like a long way to go for marijuana, and one of the characters remarks that weed is harder to score in Melbourne than heroin. This is just one of several concepts in the novel which I found vaguely incongruous. However, a lot can change in twenty-five years... who knows maybe it really was like that in the 80s.

I actually preferred the narrative sections of this book, as opposed to the annecdote sections. The narrative sections have a strong Romper Stomper vibe, and I think this book could be adapted into a good movie. I also liked some of the descriptive passages, which tend to celebrate the punkness. Here's one example: "Little black turds littered every surface and made my room smell like a mouse cage. I felt my earlobe. All my earrings were missing and flakes of dried blood coated my fingers. The sign of a good night."

The narrative could be improved and the loose ends tied up. But then it wouldn't be punk.

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