The Richmond Review

book review   


      home : book reviews : The Age of Wire and String by Ben Marcus

Disco Biscuits
Ed. Sarah Champion

Disco Biscuits
Sarah Champion
London 1997

Merchandise Links

UK Edition:

In the ten years since acid house emerged in the UK, it has developed from a largely underground scene to a dominant force at the end of the ’90s. This dominance has entered the mainstream in a mass of contradictions, all of which serve to show the far-reaching influences of a scene that no-one expected to last. The government outlaws ‘repetitive beats’ while the Post Office encourages us to get ‘sorted’; police push for power to close clubs while drug imagery surfaces in commercials for ice cream to fruit juice. In this confusion between condemnation and cashing-in comes a collection of nineteen short stories from ‘the chemical generation’.

As dance culture moves from the margins to the mainstream, it’s easy to be cynical about publishers who are more interested in pounds sterling than the kind of Dollars you can buy for a tenner but, motives aside, there are some excellent stories in this collection.

Sarah Champion’s introduction takes a celebratory tone, while the stories themselves chronicle both the highs and the lows of ten years of drugs and dancing. The best stories here are those, like Gavin Hills’ ‘White Burger Danny’, that don’t feature drugs as both character and plot. Just as the unnamed narrator of ‘White Burger Danny’ notes, ‘I realised that it wasn’t inevitable that a night of ecstasy was a guaranteed good time,’ so the better writers understand that it is substance, not just substances that made for a good story.

Perhaps it’s because writers like Irvine Welsh make it look so simple. His ‘The State of the Party’ tells the story of Calum and Crooky who, while tripping, find themselves with a heroin fatality on their hands. They drag Boaby, blue-lipped and with the beginnings of rigor mortis, through the streets, stopping for kebabs and a brief fight in which Boaby’s body is the loser. Despite the evident black humour, Welsh doesn’t neglect either the horror of the situation or the (only partially) drug-induced indifference of the characters towards the corpse: ‘They silently finished their kebabs. Crooky took a bite out of the extra one, then slung it over the hedge. Looking at Boaby’s body, Gillian seemed sad for a bit, then she put lipstick on the blue-tinted lips.’

Boaby is not the only casualty of the drug scene in this collection – the scene itself becomes the casualty in Jeff Noon’s apocalyptic ‘DJNA’, in which ‘natural-born’ DJ s are outlawed by a Christian police state which imposes its own music and its own drugs – ‘the wafer and the wine, … Disco biscuit and Jesus blood’. While in ‘Mile High Meltdown’, passengers on a holiday jet find themselves held hostage to the pilot’s crack habit and penchant for drum ‘n bass: ‘ The Captain was so far out of it by now that he was forcing the passengers who’d dared to complain, to toot on his crack at gunpoint’.

Although it’s a mixed bag, the important thing about the collection is that this is writing for people who think they don’t like reading. Stripped of multiple literary references and intellectual élitism, it documents the experiences of a generation who haven’t before seen their lives recognised in print. In doing so it offers a validation of dance culture both to the mainstream, who are more likely to read about it than to experience it, and to those for whom this is a way of life. It’s not a perfect collection by any means (why are all nineteen stories by men, for example?) but it’s a valuable reflection on a scene that continues to evolve. It will be interesting to see how the writing itself evolves from here – what will the 10th anniversary of Disco Biscuits have to offer?

Reviewed by Pippa Wright


Search The Richmond Review

Enter email address and Subscribe for updates

Product finder

Browse our network:

Visit The Big Bookshop


The Richmond Review

Copyright © 1995/2003 The Richmond Review