According to the blurb on the back, this book is 83% true. Leaving aside considerations of how we can really, in the end, define truth, especially as regards anything as tricky as human reminiscence, particularly in an autobiographical work, that immediately sets the reader up to wonder how true this assertion about the truth of the book is, and how likely they are to find the one-sixth that’s made up. Well, it did for me, anyway.
This is the story of how the author, David Bramwell, comes into possession of the moustache of a Victorian showman called Ambrose Oddfellow, which was mounted in a glass frame, and had been left to him via his Great Aunt Sylvia. This acts as a catalyst for much that is odd and revelatory in his life, most of which takes place in Brighton, a bohemian settlement on the south coast of England. He finds and loses love, takes dubious psychedelic concoctions – both deliberately and otherwise – and finds that he likes performing in odd little cabaret clubs, of which I believe there may be no shortage of in Brighton.
More than that, I’m really not going to say, at least about the basic story. I enjoyed the book hugely, for all sorts of reasons. For its odd approach to storytelling, which is punctured with numerous asides on all sorts of things, from the history of the British moustache, to the use of Hag Stones, and which takes in a huge swathe of characters, from Throbbing Gristle’s Genesis P Orridge to the man who was the model for Salvador Dali’s Christ of Saint John of the Cross. There are loads more characters who sometimes only get one mention, like local drag queen Betty Swollocks, to pluck one name not quite at random.
There’s a huge amount of esoteric ground of all kinds covered in this book, and if you’re interested in moustaches, Brighton, séances, recreational drug taking, alternative cabaret, conjoined twins, death, and the Anarchists’ Cookbook, then you should consider buying this book. Also, if you’re interested in strange stories about interesting people – and indeed interesting stories about strange people – or just human beings in general, then this is the book for you.
There one other thing, though, I want to mention: I loved the actual physical being of this book. It’s a sturdy little hardcover, with coloured boards – as opposed to a dust jacket – with a lovely unhurried layout. Whilst most of the book is laid out like a standard, the-text-goes-all-the-way-across-the-page, book, a lot of the factual asides are set up as double columns of text, giving it a more journalistic feeling. Not only that, but the frills at the top and bottom of the pages, as well as the occasional red ink used for titles, and for the page numbers in the bottom corners, which all came complete with their own full stop after each number, a feature that tickled me enormously. There’s no doubt that a lot of love and meticulous detail went into the preparation of the book, and it pays off. It’s an elegant gem, and I’m already getting ready to buy his next book, The Odditorium, which has just been released, and can be bought here.
Did I find which bit was the untrue 17%? I don’t know. But I don’t care. Maybe I’ll find it the next time I read this…
Buy The Haunted Moustache here, or try your local bookshop.
Title: The Haunted Moustache
Author: David Bramwell
Publisher: Nightfinch Books
Date of Publication: 1 July 2016
Reviewed by: Pádraig Ó Méalóid