It Gets Me Home, This Curving Track: Objects & Essays, 2012-2018


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Fitzcarraldo Editions
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About the Author

Ian Penman is a British writer, music journalist, and critic. He began his career at the NME in 1977, later contributing to various publications including The Face, Arena, Tatler, Uncut, Sight & Sound, The Wire, the Guardian, the LRB, and City Journal. He is the author of Vital Signs: Music, Movies, and Other Manias (Serpent's Tail, 1998).


'You don't have to care about any of the musicians Penman writes about to take pleasure in the tracks and trails he leads you on. He'll make you laugh... He'll startle you with a telling. And, time and time again, he'll come up with the clauses and lines and sentences in which you'll wish to linger and luxuriate.'
--Sandhu Sukhdev, 4 columns

'Throughout, Penman strips the sheen from pop sounds and images to expose interpretable signs.'
--Joe Bucciero, The Nation

'It Gets Me Home, This Curving Track summons the lives and times of several extravagantly damaged musical geniuses and near-geniuses in (mainly) the brutal context of mid-century America - its racial atrocities, its venality, its murderous conformities. Ian Penman writes an exact, evocative prose as surprising as improvised jazz in its fluid progress from music criticism to social commentary to biography and back. He's found a way to be erudite without pedantry, entertaining without pandering. His ear for mesmerizing nuance is unmatched by any music critic alive.'
-- Gary Indiana, author of Three Month Fever

'Consistently told me stuff I didn't know about stuff I thought I knew. No other 'music writer' combines such lightness of touch with such depths of diving.'
-- John Jeremiah Sullivan, author of Pulphead

'Ian Penman's work has the tone, and the texture, and the complexities of the music and musicians he talks about, whether it's Steely Dan laughing up their sleeves, the thorny declines of John Fahey and James Brown, or Elvis's conflicted southern manners. It's sharp and incisive but also full of love; it is beautiful writing.'
-- Bob Stanley, author of Yeah Yeah Yeah

'How -- in Penman's words -- to be serious without being pompous, how to be simultaneously complex and seductive, how to give a hint of your own flaws and passions without being boorishly or presumptively autobiographical: such are the struggles of the high-end essayist-reviewer, and the tension at the heart of Penman's own pieces, since he started writing them, as a teenager, for the 1970s NME. The years have made his writing clearer, deeper, sadder, richer. This is a wonderful collection.'
-- Jenny Turner, author of The Brainstorm

'Ian Penman is an ideal critic, one who invites you in, takes your coat, and hands you a drink as he sidles up to his topic. He has a modest mien, a feathery way with a sentence, a century's worth of adroit cultural connections at the ready, and a great well of genuine passion, which quickly raises the temperature. Penman writes about the monuments of popular music as if he had a personal stake in them - which of course he does.'
-- Luc Sante, author of The Other Paris

'Writing about music can often be a joyless and rather sterile exercise in point-scoring, fact-shaming and imposition of the party line, but rather than engage in musical vivisection, Ian Penman's mercurial, teasing, provocative prose presents him as a tap dancer - one who happens to use his fingers instead of his feet, and a keyboard instead of a sprung floor. Whether you agree with everything he says is beside the point. What matters is that he aspires to make the same shapes and rhythms on paper as his subjects do with particles of air.'
-- Will Ashon, author of Chamber Music

'Ian Penman - critic, essayist, mystical hack and charmer of sentences like they're snakes - is the writer I have hardly gone a week without reading, reciting, summoning to mind. The writer without whom, etc. ... I was 15 when I first read Penman, and practically all I thought about was music. After Penman, I thought about language, too. About the ways a young life might be diverted by the wrong words, the wrong metaphors - how you might find the right ones in a stray song lyric or the corner of a magazine page. ... The writing is frequently something entirely else: decades of love and listening translated into prose that glides and shimmies and pivots on risky metaphors, low puns, highbrow reference points. ... I wouldn't have written a word without the dream, ghost, echo of his writing.'
-- Brian Dillon, frieze

'Ian Penman is popular music's Hazlitt - its chief stylist - and his sound is often equal to what he writes about. Each of his essays is an event, so this book is indispensable.'
-- Andrew O'Hagan, author of The Secret Life

'Written with love and joy and squirt gunner's accuracy with the adjective.'
-- Nicholson Baker, author of U & I

'A laureate of marginal places.'
-- Iain Sinclair, London Review of Books