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A Drink With Shane MacGowan by Shane MacGowan and Victoria Mary Clarke.  Memoir, 2001. 360 Pages. Grove Press- When Shane MacGowan parted ways with the Pogues, it was for me the end of one of my all-time favorite bands.  Some people said that the stuff the Pogues came out with after his departure was good, but I didn’t even bother to listen to it.  Shane was the heart and soul of that band, possessing a unique charisma and one of the coolest voices I’ve ever heard.  As time has passed, that voice has gotten raspier and more slurred, but has remained one of the most expressive in music.  Before I read this book, I was a bit worried that his mental capacity had deteriorated along with his speech, but I was wrong.  The guy is still fuckin’ brilliant.
     A Drink With Shane MacGowan is told via a series of transcribed, booze-fueled conversations between Shane and his wife, Victoria Mary Clarke.  I like this format because it makes you feel like you’re sitting right there with them as Shane espouses on anything and everything.   As with most long conversations, things can ramble a bit and the topics aren’t all incredibly exciting (for me the parts about old Irish politics and old Irish poets dragged a bit), but by and large, Shane keeps things lively and interesting.  The parts I liked best include his freewheeling childhood with his Irish relatives that saw him drinking and gambling from the age of 5, his early years as “a face” in the burgeoning London punk scene, and Shane’s thoughts on his favorite and least favorite aspects of his own work.  
     Victoria does a nice job asking Shane provocative questions, and she doesn’t hesitate to call him on suspect answers.  Sometimes he flounders a bit, sometimes he ignores her and continues to ramble, but most times he comes up with something pretty cool.  And what makes this such a fun read is that he seems to have a strong opinion on everything.  There are consistent themes, like Irish Catholic Working Class = good and most things English = bad, but he surprises you with things like his own personal take on religion and how he felt about the early punk movement.  Victoria also doesn’t shy away from potentially sensitive subjects like Shane’s legendary drinking and his commitment to a loony bin.  I think the only question I would’ve asked that she didn’t would be if the horrific state of his teeth ever causes him physical or mental pain.  After reading this book, I’d expect the answer to that question to be introspective or outrageous, and also most likely pretty funny.  Or maybe I’d just end up with a punch in the face.  
     My recommendation?  Pick up A Drink With Shane MacGowan, find yourself a nice quiet pub and spend an afternoon devouring this fine book.  Then make sure you get wildly drunk, piss as many people off as possible, and eventually get tossed out because people can’t handle your presence.  Shane would approve. –Ben Hunter
 

 

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