Niche: A Memoir in Pastiche

Farrar. Jul. 2020. 336p. ISBN 9780374144081. $28. MUSIC
Scottish polymath Momus (aka Nick Currie) sets himself the daunting task of telling his life story through the lens of short excerpts in the style of a host of writers, artists, and assorted figures ranging from Euripides to Sigmund Freud to David Bowie. He has an uncanny ear for the cadence of a particular author, whether it is Ogden Nash’s lyrical rhymes or Niccolò Machiavelli’s somber admonitions to rulers, and he helpfully introduces more obscure personalities to the reader. Starting with his birth in 1960, Momus devotes a chapter to each decade as he traverses the globe with his parents and siblings, attends a variety of schools, and establishes himself in London with a succession of mundane jobs while finding his way as a bandmate and songwriter. Although it is sometimes challenging to locate actual events within each selection (capital N’s help), the writing is so delightfully witty and truly captures the essence of its tribute that this is of little import.
VERDICT Showing a prodigious awareness of the sweep of centuries of culture, this is an admirable conceit finely executed. It will have great appeal to anyone interested in new modes of autobiography as well as Anglophiles and devotees of Momus’s musical, literary, and artistic talents.

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