Reading the excerpt of Peter Hook’s new book at the NYT, I was struck with dread that Hook’s conversation with Sasha Frere-Jones at the Strand would be a total bust. Joy Division is already one of the most documented of bands — Hook’s contribution seemed to add little other than a knowing, chummy tone to the same stories you could already have seen in Control. So when Hook and Frere-Jones started to speak, it was worrying that Hook seemed anxious to assert his punk bona-fides, with multiple mentions of the epochal Sex Pistols show at the Lesser Free Trade Hall and punk’s “fuck off” ethos; he seemed mired in the worst kind of unintrospective nostalgia.
But as the discussion went on, Hook stopped sounding like he was rotely repeating punk war stories. As he talked about Martin Hannett’s huge influence, and his fear that Curtis’s suicide sparked Hannett’s decline into addiction, the stories became more like haunting questions, still bothering him after more than thirty years. Instead of telling these stories in the perspective of his awe-struck, adrenaline-charged younger self, Hook let the richness of age and experience colour them with contemplation.
Surprisingly, this introspection became clearest after the conclusion of the discussion proper. Frere-Jones made the standard plea that people ask questions in the form of questions — but for once, (nearly) everyone did. I was surprised when someone asked if Hook had kept in touch with Ian Curtis’s daughter, but he answered honestly and plaintively that he seldom spoke to Curtis’s family, and that his own youth, sexism, and naïveté was lamentable and damaging.
It was starkly clear that Hook isn’t just trying to cash in on the Joy Division legacy, all the fans who’d pack the Rare Book Room on a Tuesday night — instead, he’s still working through the shadowplay of these memories.