Coming Unstuck, Joe Cullen, book review: ‘An object lesson in how to get out of a rut’

Author Joe Cullen. Photograph: courtesy Joe Cullen

Everyone gets stuck in a rut at some point, and many stay there.

Coming Unstuck: A Year in the Life of a Failed Jazz Band is a personal account of one man’s unconventional quest to shift life’s gears: Joe Cullen forms a jazz funk band with his friends.

Image: courtesy Joe Cullen

Told in a jocular, semi-fictionalised style, the narrative charts the band’s efforts to break into the world of professional music in 1990s London.

The volume is the first prose work by the author, aka the ‘Bard of Dalston’, who is better known for his poetry.

Cullen recounts an unconventional path from his childhood in Toxteth to his career as an academic through petty crime, yoga and music.

Even if his band does not lead to stardom, it may just swerve his life back onto a promising path.

Lengthy diversions into evolutionary theory and the history of the British Isles leave the reader impatient to get back to the main story, but the narrative does contain some very amusing passages about what keeps the band going and what eventually shuts them down.

A very personal foray into the undergrowth of Cool Britannia, the book is an object lesson in how to get out of that rut.

Coming Unstuck: A Year in the Life of a Failed Jazz Band by Joe Cullen is published by Austin Macauley. RRP £9.99; ISBN: 978-1-5289849-7-3.