For a while Harland Miller appeared to be better known for his celebrity friends (Jarvis Cocker, Tracy Emin) and appearances in style magazines than for his writing, but with the publication of Slow Down Arthur, Stick to 30 that should finally change. The book tells the story of Billy “Kid” Glover, a teenage outsider in a parochial Yorkshire town. After some misguided drunken japery, Glover’s parents decide that it is time he found somewhere else to live, leading to him moving in with a motley selection of local acquaintances. Glover knows all too well the suffocating narrow-mindedness of small-town life, when all he longs for is... well, like so many distressed teenagers, he never seems terribly sure. Adolescent dalliances with sex, drink and drugs are duly honoured, but it is the sudden disappearance of Ziggy Hero, local hipster and David Bowie impersonator (or ‘interpreter’ if you will), that really changes Glover.
The dialogue is littered with pop-culture references, lending context to the picture of Glover’s life and no doubt appealing to retentive pop-types everywhere. The fatalistic and self-depreciating Northern humour that is present throughout has been compared repeatedly to Pulp, and indeed Jarvis Cocker lends his support on the book cover. Miller’s description of everyday life and of the extra-ordinary found within the ordinary distances the book from so many run-of-the-mill coming of age novels. Comparisons with the Catcher the Rye may be obvious, but had Holden Caulfield woken up to find himself in the North of England some time in the early ‘80s, he would no doubt have found a soulmate in Kid Glover.
Anyone who spent their teenage years contemplating their own outsider status in a dead-end provincial town (and learned to laugh about it afterwards) will doubtless enjoy reading about Glover’s own adolescent journey. Although the plot becomes increasingly surreal and abstract towards the end, this slight disappointment seems almost incidental. In this case, the journey seems much more important than the final destination.