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Jolly Lad: A Menk Anthology
- By: John Doran
- Narrated by: John Doran
- Length: 10 hrs and 5 mins
Jolly Lad is a memoir about the recovery from alcoholism, habitual drug use, and mental illness. It is also about the healing power of music, how memory defines us, the redemption offered by fatherhood, and what it means to be working class.
- By Jackie Chesbro on 12-07-16
"A terrible beauty is born": Superb!
What did you like most about Jolly Lad: A Menk Anthology?
It might seem like a daunting prospect to listen to an audiobook that deals with such serous subjects as this one does. But when Vice commissioned John Doran to write a column "about anything but music" they must have known full well he spins a yarn better than anyone and can hold court on pretty much any topic you care to mention. And so it proves as Doran lets rip: the book is positively bursting with the most fantastically funny stories and anecdotes (even in the prologue - I haven't checked the index yet but probably there too). Beware of listening in public - it will have you laughing out so loud you'll end up thinking to yourself help people are looking at me funny.
Yet always looming at the back are the twin spectres of mental illness and alcoholism. The stories get less funny as Doran, like some demented character in a Nick Cave song, bangs his cup across the bars and practically drowns himself in an ocean of whisky and wine. Soon there is no choice: it's either stop drinking or die. And, very distressingly, it's a very close call.
In one glorious passage Doran describes the recovery process as like the draining of a lake that reveals "an area of outstanding natural horror". It's a seriously beautiful piece of writing. And so he turns the spotlight inward and, it has to be said with no small amount of courage, opens up to give us a direct insight into the mind of someone suffering from depression, bipolarity, hallucination, addiction.
Again, people might be forgiven for thinking it would be hard to listen to this. But that steady voice and sense of humour keep you hooked. Between the jokes and the horror lies a rich vein of thoughtful comment on life, growing up, family, friendship, parenthood. Fans of course already know, but fact is Doran writes superbly. He's not just limited to the old barfly gift of the gab. He makes his critical points with laser accuracy and even shows off his own poetic streak on more than a few occasions. And then of course there's the music. Absolutely tons of music.
They say there's only two kinds of people in the mental health services: users and survivors. Doran has been both. This ought to be required reading/listening for anyone else who has encountered depression: if you suffer from it you'll hear a voice articulating what you yourself might not find it so easy to say, if you know someone suffering from it you might begin to understand how they see the world. And you'll be in extremely good company.
In all: very highly recommended.