Young, Ian. “London Skin and Bones: The Finsbury Park Stories”, Squares and Rebels, 2017.
London in the 80s
The world is so different today than it was 20 or thirty years ago and I realize that on every page of Ian Young’s collection of stories about London in the early 8Os. This is one of those books that makes you saw “wow” all the way through. Not only are the stories fascinating but the prose is gorgeous. Young takes us to Finsbury Park, a neighborhood where the residents included “fascinating habitués long gone—gay skinheads, anarchist poets, and stoned stamp collectors—resisting the dark forces of a Thatcherite government.” It is the diversity of the people who live there that make this such a fascinating place and the fact that the residents are all friends shows that getting along is very simple— all we have to do is want to get along. Aside from the human characters in these stories, there is also the character of the place itself. The friends that we meet here are an unlikely group and we see skinheads and gay working class men share friendships and there is a real sense of community at Finsbury Park. What glues these people together is friendship, as unlikely as it may be.
This is a book about “Lad Culture” (and thanks to Jack Fritscher for that title) that is made up of stories that come together to form a whole. But it is important to remember that this is a book about a certain place and time and even though what we read here could happen anywhere, it happened there first. The worth of a city is based upon the worth of its inhabitants. We surely see that are characters weave in and out of the stories and I love having had the chance to meet them. While each is extraordinary in his/her own way, they are all citizens of an ordinary world.
We get quite a different look at gay life here manly because we see it in an unlikely place, a neighborhood so diversely populated where being a man is what its all about. Our gay people here are radical and radically political and I feel as if I already know each and every character (and I am so glad that I do). Rather than look at each story individually I am going to give the collection five stars and let you discover it for yourselves.