cover image Niche: A Memoir in Pastiche

Niche: A Memoir in Pastiche

Momus. Farar, Straus and Giroux, $28 (332p) ISBN 978-0-374-14408-1

A pop semistar reminisces in the voices of great writers in this dazzlingly off-beat memoir. Momus, aka Nick Currie, a Scotsman who chose the name of the Greek god of mockery as his stage name, recalls life as an art-pop singer-songwriter and novelist (The Book of Jokes) celebrated for dark-edged, satirical lyrics; muttered vocals; and incongruously peppy beats. His narrative is a music industry picaresque, complete with grungy tours and art-school groupies, that falls gloriously short of superstardom. It’s also an inventive homage, presented as commentaries on Momus’s adventures in the personas and styles of dozens of writers, artists, directors and scientists. Thus, “James Joyce” probes Momus’s budding artistic sensibility, “Hemingway” recounts his experiences in Manhattan on 9/11, “Freud” analyzes his sexual fetishes (parading around naked), and “Alexander Graham Bell” also analyzes his sexual fetishes (obscene phone calls). Momus delivers spot-on impersonations—“[He] stared up at... the Gothic shard surrounded by glum stalactites of deadened hedge and the beetle-infested trunks of damp trees, its southern aspect confronting an endless hell of rugby pitches,” writes “Poe” of a sinister boarding school—with plenty of self-deprecating wit. (“For some reason, nobody wants to buy a concept album which mashes up the Red Brigades with The Sound of Music,” grouses British singer-songwriter “Viv Stanshall.”) This is that rare show-biz memoir that’s both entertaining and a literary triumph. (July)