Ian Curtis, a mesmeric frontman and renowned lyricist is every bit deserved of his mythical-iconic status. So, do you want to hear 'the story' recounted from the perspective of the cheated wife? Well, I did. And admittedly, it WAS an interesting read, revealing a man not without fault, but ultimately a dedicated, hard-working person who painstakingly forged a promising musical career. Sadly, however, it was his escalating personal problems that ironically became his groups' 'selling point'.
Before the suicide that boosted record sales and confirmed Curtis' status among legends, the music press were already drawing attention to his burgeoning problem with epilepsy. Spurred on by his frantic, spasmodic dancing, live audiences must have seemed like eager spectators in a freak-show, baying for the crescendo of an on-stage fit. While this focal point may have generated the hype the band needed in a highly competitive industry, to Ian - whose depression was compounding his illness - the press reviews struck some disturbing paralells close to the bone ("In his opinion they were like psychiatric reports, even using the appropriate terminology and references"). Deborah reveals a man deeply embarrassed of his illness, yet obviously aware of its play in his desperate bid for success. She portrays a man of contradictions, a Jekyll-and-Hyde figure: one-of-the-lads to his bandmates and friends, while concealing a darker personality that sought refuge in thoughful literature (Hesse, Dostoyevsky, Conrad, Ballard), held an interest in Nazism, and was fascinated by "extreme concepts and philosophies". Not to mention a death wish.
The book briefly dips into Ian's trouble-free childhood and drug-experimenting adolescence, but concentrates mainly on the period of their relationship/marraige that coincided with the origins and eventual rise of Joy Division - and hit the rocks when Ian began his affair with the Belgian woman Annik Honore. Deborah interestingly sheds light on Ian's strongly held (and very serious) romantic notions of rock'n'roll death and suicide, and expresses her shocking opinion that "he engineered his own hell and planned his own downfall". He is described as an habitual depressive whose problem took a marked dive for the worse as his epileptic condition became debilitating, exacerbated by the barbiturates he was issued. Little was known about effective ways to treat epilepsy. Doctors showed Ian little sympathy or care. Remember, this was back in the 'pull-yourself-together' age of 1970s Britain which, particularly in this book, seems like the Dark Ages. Mental illness and 'mysterious' conditions such as eplepsy were airbrushed from public consciousness, and dubiously treated.
Nowadays, in hindsight, Curtis' lyrics may read as obvious cries-for-help or predictions of tragedy - even suicide notes. But at the time, nobody close to Ian was paying enough attention to acknowledge the danger in their increasingly extreme content. Deborah was shocked upon hearing the darkly-confessional lyrics of the 'Closer' LP (released just after his death). She says that had she heard it beforehand she "could have gained an insight into what was happening in his mind". And got some help. Couple this with the fact they had a one-year-old daughter, and it simply adds to the tragedy. However, she does suggest the tragedy as something probably inevitable.
Deborah's discovery of Ian's body in the kitchen of their terraced Macclesfield house - he'd polished off a bottle of whisky and hung himself, Iggy Pop's 'The Idiot' still spinning on the turntable - is sequenced in chilling dreamlike flashback. And, an example of the shameful heartlessness of the music industry is conveyed as bassist Peter Hook (generally good guy throughout) is shown as offering Deborah "one of the few expressions of sympathy shown to me by Ian's music business friends". Curtis died at just 23 years old.
The book is an emotional trawl through a dark, difficult past that raises many unanswered questions and much speculation. Being the only biography of Ian's life by somebody close to him, it cannot help but present a one-sided view that - for Ian's sake - could do with some counterbalance from elsewhere. While Deborah DOES glance over the kinder aspects of Ian's nature (he loved animals / took an "extremely personal interest in his job helping the disabled" etc.) she seems a little over-eager to emphasise his negative traits, frequently listing his selfish, cruel and sometimes bizzarre behaviour towards her. In places, her writing makes you wonder what she actually saw in him in the first place. There are also some petty moments, such as when she complains about Ian's "racism" while forgetting that she earlier mentioned his love for reggae and going to clubs "where white people didn't normally go".
Ultimately, the book is a riveting - if one-sided - read. However, with Deborah's recent solo-insistence upon pushing ahead for 'the movie'(always a bad idea) it quite naturally throws suspicion upon what the project was actually accomplished for. Nevertheless, to any Joy Division fan, or indeed anybody interested in Ian Curtis' writing, the inclusion of the full lyrics alone makes this book not only well worth the cover price but an essential possession.