Friday, 13 February 2009

Gemma Weekes - Love Me (Chatto & Windus 2009)

‘Love Me’ is the startling new novel by poet and singer Gemma Weekes, who as Goldiroxx and MisFit, has wowed and hynpotised audiences all over the country. Her ability to tell simple stories wracked with human emotion and real characters interacting has made her one of the best-loved must-see acts on the London poetry circuit. Having taken time off a few years ago to write her debut nove, flitting between New York sofas and Hackney homes, she has finally delivered a debut novel that is punk rock, and it is hip-hop and it is the purest form of poetry. Written in similes that drip with cultural relevance, rhythmical intelligence and poetical sibilance, she weaves textures into a simple tale where a punk rock girl falls in love with a hip-hop guy and obsesses over the perfect memory of a summer they once spent together. Now they’re grown but she never outgrew him and he’s trying to make his way, but she unsure and directionless, abandoned physically by her mother and emotionally by her father, holds on to him as the one perfect memory of her life. He is Zed and she is Eden. When Zed comes over from New York to be a rapper, she follows him around wracked by jealousy and consumed with envy for anyone who warrants his attention more than her. After a crisis point where she takes her obsession too far, she decamps to New York and her mystical but absent aunt’s family of strays who welcome her in and teach her to love herself. Empowered and ready to take on the world, hers is shook once more by the reappearance of Zed in her life and her burgeoning yet difficult relationship with privileged revolutionary rock musician Spanish. As they head for a cataclysmic conclusion, her mediations on love and what she thought was a traditional infatuation becomes a deeper manifestation of her soul.

Gemma Weekes uses the rhythms of poetry to weave a poetry that is snappy and tight. Each chapter is short, like a poem, a flurry of thoughts that build to a larger whole. The flips into letters and into poems are beautifully focused and keep the breaks in action smoothly ticking over. Weekes’ command of beautiful similes and achingly poignant metaphors for the path of love crashing and burning make this a strong self-assured piece of work, full of bravado like hip-hop, full of energy like punk rock. It’s a beautifully written debut novel and one that makes hip-hop and the communities of Hackney and New York accessible, yet in that London flex with the slangalang, and the inflections that would make any yoot daps your fist. The begging pleading naivety of a sentiment like ‘Love Me’ works well for conflicted and directionless Eden, a girl with no ambitions and no tether to her family or friends, someone who has simply existed in stasis coming alive for Zed only. But is he the one for her? Does he even want her? Well, you’ve have to read the novel to find out.

Gemma is performing at Book Slam on 26 February and deserves your time. She’s one of the sweetest, hard-working and lyrically sound performers I have ever had the pleasure of performing with, and this novel is proof enough that she is a true masterpiece author waiting in the wings. And with a debut this electric, she’s hasn’t got long to go before she explodes.

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