Earlier this year, during my 42nd birthday celebrations in London, my friend Saul gave me this book as a present : "Coal Black Mornings".
Written by Brett Anderson, the singer of Suede, the book has struck a chord with me, not just as a music fan, but as a human searching to connect my own story and struggles with other people´s.
This is no ordinary rock star memoir.
In his own words : "This is a book about failure. It´s a book about poverty and family and friendship and the scruffy wonders of youth and, inevitably, it´s a book about love and it´s a book about loss".
This candidly written account of young Brett's vulnerability provides us with a rare insight into the depth of his creativity as an artist.
Here´s the singer talking to the BBC about this project.
"Coal Black Mornings" does not contain a single picture inside. Instead the author uses descriptive language in all its splendour. He talks about his upbringing, finding his own identity, and his struggles as a musician searching for a record deal.
I want to pause for a second and highlight to you the importance of mastering descriptive language to improve your writing in English. It is the secret to advancing through the upper stages C1 and C2, and it can only be acquired through reading books.
Descriptive language appeals to the reader's five senses: taste, touch, sight, smell, and hearing. The most common resources used are adverbs, adjectives, metaphors and similes. Watch this video to learn more about descriptive language.
Now let´s read a few passages from Brett´s book together and learn a few new words.
snotty -> (mocoso) covered with mucus from the nose / rude and behaving badly, especially by treating other people in a way that shows that you believe yourself to be better than them.
sniffy -> (estirado, desdeñoso) showing disapproval and a low opinion
maudlin -> (sensiblero, llorón) self-pityingly or tearfully sentimental, often through drunkenness.
scowling -> (ceñudo) frown in an angry or bad-tempered way.
down-cast -> (alicaído) sad and without hope
glum -> (sombrío) looking or feeling dejected
befuddled -> (perplejo, atontado) cause to become unable to think
jowly -> (con mejillas caídas / con papada) having marked jowls : having full or saggy flesh about the lower cheeks and jaw area
puffy -> (hinchado) unusually swollen and soft
spool -> (proyectar) to compute, to send data
pebble-dashed -> (acabado de guijarro discontinuo) a finish for outer walls in which pieces of crushed rock are set into an outer coat of stucco or cement
perched -> (asentado) settled
drab -> (monótono) monotonous
dreary -> (triste) dull, bleak, and lifeless; depressing
torrid -> (tórrido) very hot and dry; full of difficulty or tribulation.
corrugated -> (acanalado, ondulado) of a material, surface, or structure) shaped into alternate ridges and grooves
tip -> (el vertedero) a place where trash is deposited; a dump.
detritus -> (detrito, restos) waste or debris of any kind
a sea of rust and white enamel -> ( un mar de óxido y esmalte blanco) this is a metaphor
grimy -> (mugriento) covered with or characterized by grime
harsh -> (duro, escabroso) unpleasantly rough or jarring to the senses
stark poverty -> (pobreza extrema, pobreza severa) severe poverty
seep -> (filtrarse, rezumarse) flow or leak slowly through porous material or small holes
tatty -> (raído, en mal estado) worn and shabby; in poor condition
gaudy-> (llamativo) striking, jazzy, showy, flamboyant, startling
trysts-> (citas) private romantic rendezvous between lovers.
So why did the book strike a chord with me? Why did it really hit home?
To start with, I have been an avid and devoted fan of Suede since 1993, when I first watched their provocative video "Metal Mickey" on an MTV show called 120 minutes.
Their melodies have turned out to be the soundtrack of some important events in my life : my first trip to Paris (1993), my first summer in London (1996)...
Entwined by serendipity or kismet, Brett and I have crossed paths many times in the 16 years I have worked in the music business. Here we are during post-show celebrations at the Brixton Academy in May 2011.
The other very important reason why "Coal Black Mornings" strikes a chord with me, is that the book deals with the subjects I have been recently preoccupied with, that is, family blueprint, cultural heritage, identity, failure and loss. And it does so with the kind of honesty and artistry hard to find in rock star memoirs.
The friend who gave me this book, Saul, appears on the very last page of the book. He signed Suede to his label nude records and the rest is music history. In 1993 their debut album went to the top of the UK charts and Suede won the prestigious Mercury Music Prize.
Brett is already writing a follow up, a read that I am certain will be even more extraordinary.
Here´s an unfiltered live performance of "Everything Will Flow" captured by a fan at a Brussels concert in 2016.
Can you share a book or a film which has struck a chord with you and explain why? What was your favourite new word that you learned on this post?