Book Review

BookwormSez: ‘Jimmy Neurosis’

“Jimmy Neurosis” by James Oseland
c. 2019, Ecco
305 pages

Back then, you were a chameleon.

Like most teens, you spent time blending in through different personas. One day, you were this kind of kid; another day, you were that kind; next week one, then another, as if you had a rack full of roles to try on and years to do it. In the new memoir Jimmy Neurosis by James Oseland, punk rock helped.

Moving again should have been no surprise for young Jim Oseland.

His father had always been somewhat of a nomad; in each new town, just as the family settled in, it seemed as though the first plan was to move again – although this time was different. This move was to California, and Oseland’s dad said he no longer wanted a family. Dad was staying in Minnesota.

Just 13, Oseland hoped to fit in with his new ninth-grade California classmates at San Carlos High, but he realized on the first day that it wouldn’t happen. Still, over time, he managed to make friends with a boy who dealt weed; and with a tall Marilyn-Monroe-ish exchange student who invited Oseland to explore the world of punk rock.

The music, the moshing, and the clothing were all things he’d seen on TV in Minnesota, but the culture was attainable in California. In club after club, 15-year-old Oseland was welcomed for his uniqueness; not fitting in seemed to be the whole point. He even felt comfortable enough to admit, out loud, that he was gay.

It was something Oseland had known since he was very small, but he couldn’t articulate it until he was welcomed into the world of punk rock. And he blossomed.

“Gone,” he says, “was the shy, awkward boy, to be replaced by someone with sharper edges.”

He gained a “boyfriend” who was more than twice his age and, after the boyfriend moved to New York, Oseland followed. When that relationship soured, the 17-year-old returned to California, with a germ of an idea.

California had changed. Punk rock had changed. And so, again, did Oseland.

Though it may at first seem like just another memoir, Jimmy Neurosis has three things that set it apart – the most obvious being that it’s a look at punk rock. That’s a story told not merely from its beginning but also from the perspective of two coasts. Author James Oseland was there to see both.

The second and third things go together: told from the point-of-view of an awkward, desperately-wanna-be-worldly teenager, this memoir is mostly set in a time before the AIDS crisis, but only just. Oseland was highly promiscuous in those days and he’s very open in his recollections; AIDS is never mentioned but readers may not be able to avoid feeling an edge-of-your-seat fear, not because of what’s written but because we know too much.

For that, and for readers who like memoirs of the coming-of-age type, this book is an easy choice. It’s also a great memory trip for old punk rockers. For fans of both, Jimmy Neurosis is the perfect blend.

Terri Schlichenmeyer

Terri Schlichenmeyer, Book Review Columnist, has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She has worked with more than 200 newspapers and nearly 50 magazines scattered in 46 states, the Virgin Islands and six provinces of Canada. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 12,000 books.

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