I just finished reading Tim Rogers’ memoir, Detours. I gave it 3 stars on Goodreads. I feel a bit bad about that. There’s nothing actually wrong with it. It’s warm, lovely, and funny, in parts. Banjo Paterson-esque in writing style. But I judge a good book by how compelled I am to read it, rather than how disciplined I must be before I allow myself to buy another book, and this one fell into the latter. By contrast, Tina Fey and Marieke Hardy had me turning page after page.
In the absence of narrative, memoirists must have to work a little harder to keep my attention. For memoir, it’s about humour and familiarity; familiarity with place or circumstances. I don’t seem to hold fiction to the same ruleset. In Marieke Hardy’s, You’ll Be Sorry When I’m Dead, it was humour and place, with mentions of familiar scenes in Sydney and Melbourne. In Tina Fey’s, Bossypants, it was her particular style of humour and that her alter ego, Liz Lemon, is pretty much me. I, too, have been awkward and bespectacled, working as the only woman with a bunch of donut-munching dudes, where a robust sense of humour is a business requirement.
But as I think about it, Detours does have some humour, is certainly familiar in the most aching way, so why didn’t it at least get a 4/5? I don’t read reviews before buying a book and if I had, I would’ve known this memoir, from one of my generation’s icons of the Australian music scene, doesn’t share many stories of the band and the lifestyle from the road or the stage. There are few references to that part of Tim Rogers’ life that we are most familiar with as Gen X, former Triple J listeners. Instead, it’s a more intimate insight into what it’s like to be Tim Rogers. I won’t bother repeating what the review in The Guardian says, because Brigid Delaney’s appreciation for the book captures the depth that was lost on me at the time of reading and is a far better review than anything I could cobble together.
I think it was the ache that chipped a star off my rating. The ache Rogers has as a long-distance parent, the aching anxieties that he’s managed throughout his life, and the aching longing that moments of his memoir elicited within me when he described the Melbourne of the early 90s. Out of home for the first time and well into the music scene, I frequented the same places and I often wish I could relive 1993, if only to take it all in again from the eyes of the naive 19 year old I was back then. In one story he refers to Topolino’s, a well-known St Kilda pizza joint that’s still there, and it drew me straight back in time. Sitting in Topolino’s with a couple of friends and band members after a gig, eating pizza and spying Judith Lucy sitting a few tables in front of us. Oof…there it goes again. Nostalgia hurts sometimes.
In the days since I finished the book, I’ve played Heavy Heart on repeat. If the publishers had done a book trailer, this would’ve been the soundtrack. It’s been made more poignant with the context of Rogers’ memoir. Perhaps I should revise my rating up.