John Foxx: The Marvellous Notebook – UK – CD 
- The Marvellous Notebook
- Under London
- The Quiet Man
Now is not the first time that John Foxx has committed his short stories to the spoken word medium. In 2009, the CD of “The Quiet Man” appeared with five of the “Quiet Man” short stories from the then-unpublished book material that Foxx had been writing for decades, with his musical accompaniment to the voice of Justin Barton reading the stories.
In 2022, “The Marvellous Notebook” appears in a different landscape. In 2020, the long discussed book of “The Quiet Man” appeared, finally, in print. Short excerpts had filtered out through the years, but this was a curated deep dive into the modes of thinking that had strongly influenced the music writing of Foxx post-1977. Limited stock of the book remains for those interested. Longtime fans who have ever read this material will recognize snatches of lyrics and the thematic interests that have guided Foxx’s hand in creating the music he’s made following afterward.
The four stories here [three on LP] read by Foxx himself this time, adding a poignancy definitely missing from the 2009 disc, as the artist himself is now aged to the point where many of the stories written decades ago featuring the older version of his titular protagonist, now overlap congruently with his present age.
The title track, existed as an example of metafiction where The Quiet Man, in traversing the future wilderness of London has found a copy of the journals that “The Quiet Man” book was ultimately culled from. As the protagonist reads the books, written to expound and record the writer’s theories about various enigmatic, subnormal phenomena before the deterioration of his mind, he has glimmers of recognition about the idea of walking in a gray suit at twilight… just like he enjoys in the now wild London. Leading me to suspect that the original writer and The Quiet Man might be one and the same; after the ravages of time have rendered his memory totally unreliable. The very intimations of prompted the writing of the book in the first place.
Following the metafictional slant of the opening story, “Remember…” was a deep dive in to the left field of these stories, with one I recall reading in the pages of the Extreme Voice Ultravox fanzine 20 or so years ago. It was about fragmentation, mutability of identity, and dissolution of self, all being some of Foxx’s main themes given an unsettling physical manifestation. As the protagonist literally peeled off his skin while encountering a torrent of memory fragments underwater.
“Under London” was a more traditional seeming story that seemed to exist just slightly outside of the frameworks of the other three stories. Its tale of a vast living marble angel, sleeping for millennia beneath the surface of London and in stirring, causing the topography [another Foxx concern] to irrevocably alter as the earth slowly shifted, seemed to owe a debt to the influence of the Quatermass serials in its fantastic premise, if not tone. Notably, The Quiet Man persona is not a part of that tale.
The concluding story dealt with the crux of The Quiet Man; an anonymous person, living a life of mundane patterns and normality. The narrative unfolded methodically in clipped, prosaic detail. Seemingly banal until the reveal that he was now alone in the ruined, rewilded London after nature had reclaimed it. The last citizen trying to live an unruffled, dignified life in weird circumstances. Like any of us.
As compared to the earlier “The Quiet Man” CD the music, while still here, was imperceptible. It really is a spoken word album. The title track appeared on both discs and the intonation of Foxx, as the writer, makes this the one to hear. His dusky Lancs accent giving the readings here the authenticity that was lacking from the earlier reading by Barton. And the Barnbrook artwork was another delight, with the CD booklet being far more elaborate than the LP insert, though the latter being ennobled by Foxx’s signature must certainly count for something. This one is an agreeable outlier to the music we associate with Foxx while perhaps being the purest distillation of his themes possible.