The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness
A Sunday Times Book of the Year
'Passionate and courageous, insightful and humane, funny and moving, this is a wonderful book' David Nicholls, author of One Day
Graham Caveney was born in 1964 in Accrington: a town in the north of England, formerly known for its cotton mills, now mainly for its football team. Armed with his generic Northern accent and a record collection including the likes of the Buzzcocks and Joy Division, Caveney spent a portion of his youth pretending he was from Manchester. That is, until confronted by someone from Manchester (or anyone who had been to Manchester or anyone who knew anything at all about Manchester) at which point he would give up and admit the truth.
In The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness, Caveney describes growing up as a member of the 'Respectable Working Class'. From aspiring altar boy to Kafka-quoting adolescent, his is the story of a teenage boy's obsession with music, a love affair with books, and how he eventually used them to plot his way out of his home town. But this is also a story of abuse.
For his parents, education was a golden ticket: a way for their son to go to university, to do better than they did, but for Graham, this awakening came with a very significant condition attached. For years Graham's headteacher, a Catholic priest, was his greatest mentor, but he was also his abuser.
As an adult, Graham Caveney is still struggling to understand what happened to him, and he writes about the experience - all of it - and its painful aftermath with a raw, unflinching honesty. By turns, angry, despairing, insightful, always acutely written and often shockingly funny, The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness is an astonishing memoir, startling in its originality.
In the media
Passionate and courageous, insightful and humane, funny and moving, this is a wonderful book.
David Nicholls, author of One Day
What Caveney achieves in this powerful, distinctive memoir is the positioning of his repeated sexual abuse into the landscape of an early Eighties adolescence . . . By turns honest, angry, funny, thoughtful, acerbic and desperately sad . . . Caveney impressively resists reaching easy conclusions . . . The book is percussive with black gags, as Caveney attacks the contradictions of his teenage years.
Richard Beard The Times
Caveney . . . writes with such robust, defiant attack that he never leaves the reader feeling like a prurient spy. His anger is blistering, any comedy not so much black as bile green . . . Caveney tells the story of his life brilliantly, but still you wish there was another one he could have written.
[The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness] is often bleakly funny and, alongside its troubling main theme, tells a more tender story of adolescent male friendship, unspoken parental love and music’s redemptive power . . . [Caveney’s] voice on the page is humane, big-hearted and without self-pity . . . it demands to be read.