The smell of celebrity

Nicole Kidman, Liz Hurley, Madonna...

Hi everyone!

Last night’s #SJsTwitterBookClub featured author, journalist and all round lovely person, Matt Cain (@MattCainWriter), who joined us to talk about his brilliant novel, The Madonna of Bolton. Matt gave us a (spoiler-free) introduction to the book. ‘It's about a boy growing up in 1980s Bolton who has a hard time because he's gay and takes refuge in Madonna and her work, using her as an emotional crutch and spirit guide to get him through. But then he has to learn to let go to be true to himself...’

From there we chatted about how autobiographical the story is, and why Madonna is such a huge inspiration to so many, particularly those in the LGBT+ community. ‘A lot of the details of Charlie's life are from mine,’ said Matt, ‘but I did change lots too. I'd say the skeleton of the story is autobiographical and the emotional journey is very much so...’ On Madonna herself, he went on to say, ‘…it was her message of having been hurt but strapping on costumes like armour to power through it. She was all about strength and self-determination. As a sex positive woman, she was a fellow sexual outsider and stood up for gay people when very few did.’

We talked a little about meeting idols (Matt said he’d never met Madonna, despite having had the opportunity to via his work as a journalist) and how some of them can be massively disappointing. (Except for authors who, we decided are ALL LOVELY). Matt told us that Liz Hurley ‘was very nice but stank of fags1’ and I revealed that Nicole Kidman ‘…did smell sublime. I asked her what she was wearing, fragrance-wise, and instantly forgot her answer.’ No other celebrity smells were discussed, but if you have any olfactory anecdotes, then why not share them here?

It was great fun, and Matt even wore his special T-shirt for the event!

Join us next week, when writer, broadcaster and DJ Dave Haslam (@Mr_Dave_Haslam) will pop in to chat about his brilliant memoir ‘Sonic Youth Slept on My Floor’. Don’t miss it!

In the late 1970s Dave Haslam was a teenage John Peel listener and Joy Division fan, his face pressed against a 'window', looking in at a world of music, books and ideas. Four decades later, he finds himself in the middle of that world, collaborating with New Order on a series of five shows in Manchester. Into the story of those intervening decades, Haslam weaves a definitive portrait of Manchester as a music city and the impact of a number of life-changing events, such as the nightmare of the Yorkshire Ripper to the shock of the Manchester Arena terror attack.The cast of Haslam's life reads like a who's who of '70s, '80s and '90s popular culture: Tony Wilson, Nile Rodgers, Terry Hall, Neneh Cherry, Tracey Thorn, John Lydon, Johnny Marr, Ian Brown, Laurent Garnier and David Byrne. From having Morrissey to tea and meeting writers such as Raymond Carver and Jonathan Franzen to discussing masturbation with Viv Albertine and ecstasy with Roisin Murphy, via having a gun pulled on him at the Hacienda and a drug dealer threatening to slit his throat, this is not your usual memoir.

Happy reading!

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‘Fags’ are cigarettes, for any US readers!