Richey Edwards, otherwise known as ‘Richey Manic’, is one of the most heavily mythologised characters in rock and roll history. Initially, the driver and photographer for the band Manic Steet Preachers, comprised of his old school friends, his alluring personality eventually led to him being welcomed into the group as the fourth member and rhythm guitarist in 1989.
Before too long, he became the band’s spokesman. The interesting thing about Edwards was that even though he showed no natural musical brilliance – as the shape of his canonised figure would have you believe – rather that it was his contribution to the band in lyrics, design and his candid off-stage personality that really endeared him to the audience at the time. In short, Generation X saw something in his character that truly resonated. Although he was a cult figure during his lifetime, it was his disappearance on February 1, 1995, that truly cemented his fabled legacy. Like a real-life version of Brian Slade from Velvet Goldmine, Edwards’ disappearance was a tragic and perplexing event that led to him being declared dead in absentia in 2008.
Regardless of the verdict, there have been numerous alleged sightings of him across the globe from Goa to Fuerteventura, and this has kept his myth alive. In addition to the way in which any tragic figure in music is received, Edwards‘ sincere discussion of topics such as depression, alcoholism and self-harm also led to him being worshipped as a truly progressive voice within the arts, as at the time, they were still not really spoken about. According to Caitlin Moran, the way he spoke with “humility, sense and, often, bleak humour” about subjects such as these is what truly inspired his celebrity.
A fascinating man in life and in his possible death, audiences have always wished to be able to dig a bit deeper into the complex mind and cerebral artist that was Richey Edwards. Glam to the core and equally as messed up as the band’s glam heroes of the ’70s, Edwards is a strange case that continues to be discussed. Poetic, political and historical, his lyrics and outlook drew on a wide range of literary influences.
For a man comprised of such dense and gordian opinions, there can be no surprise that Edwards was a very well-read individual. Luckily for us, the folks over at Radical Reads have compiled a list of all the works of literature he listed as his favourite over the years.
An extensive list, we do not have the room nor time to dig into all of them, but we have used the space to pick out some of the most interesting ones. As Edwards was a man not afraid to discuss some of the darker facets of the human condition, where better to start than with Go Ask Alice? First published in 1971, it was once believed to be written by an anonymous author, but it is now widely accepted as a found manuscript-styled fictional work written by Beatrice Sparks, a therapist who went on to write other books purporting to be real diaries of troubled teenagers.
Either way, given that Sparks had first-hand knowledge of dealing with teenagers who struggled with themselves, there is a realist depth to the prose. This informed the book’s discussion of sex, rape and drugs; topics that weren’t widely discussed by Edwards’ generation. An eye-opening bestseller, the book’s legacy lives on to this day.
Another classic that Edwards mentioned was The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus. This 1942 philosophical essay is one of the most influential ever penned. For the work, Camus drew existential inspiration from Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. The central theme of the book is what Camus calls the ”philosophy of the absurd”.
He argued that the absurd lies in the stark juxtaposition between the basic human need to ascribe meaning to life and the “unreasonable silence” of the universe in response. In drawing parallels between human life and the situation of Sisyphus from Ancient Greek mythology, Camus outlines several approaches to revolting against the universe and for leading a happy life. When you think about the implications of the book, it makes some headway in accounting for Edwards’ disappearance.
Another highly intriguing entry is the 1970s effort The Atrocity Exhibition. An experimental novel comprised of linked stories and “condensed novels” by cult British writer J.G. Ballard, the book contains stories with titles such as ‘Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan’ and ‘Plans for the Assassination of Jacqueline Kennedy’. Controversial, arty and taking cues from William S. Burroughs, it comes to little surprise that Edwards enjoyed this compelling and visceral work. If the title sounds familiar, that is because Joy Division named their 1980 song of the same name after it.
Other classics Edwards loved ranged from Bret Easton Ellis’ postmodern capitalist critique American Psycho, the modernist poem The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot and the allegorical novella The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka.
A long and varied collection of work, it accounts for almost every element of Edwards’ artistry and personality. Featuring fiction, non-fiction, essays and poems, there is certainly something here for you. So sit back, and enjoy wading through some incredible titles that the mysterious Richey Edwards loved and drew artistic inspiration from.
Richey Edwards’ favourite literature:
- Small Craft Warnings by Tennessee Williams
- Suddenly Last Summer by Tennessee Williams
- Baby Doll by Tennessee Williams
- Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
- The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
- A Season in Hell by Arthur Rimbaud
- Junky by William S. Burroughs
- The Myth Of Sisyphus by Albert Camus
- The Stranger by Albert Camus
- The Fall by Albert Camus
- The Plague by Albert Camus
- The Boy Looked At Johnny by Julie Burchill and Tony Parsons
- Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock’ Rock’ n” Roll Music by Greil Marcus
- Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock by Nik Cohn
- Crosstown Traffic: Jimi Hendrix and Post-war Pop by Charles Shaar Murray
- Elvis: The Last 24 Hours by Albert Goldman
- The Lives Of John Lennon by Albert Goldman
- 1984 by George Orwell
- Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
- The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
- Another Country by James Baldwin
- Borstal Boy by Brendan Behan
- Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis
- American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
- Lord of the Flies by William Golding
- The Inheritors by William Golding
- Prick Up Your Ears by John Lahr
- One Flew Over The Cuckoo’sCuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
- Desolation Angels by Jack Kerouac
- The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart
- Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
- The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
- Birdy by William Wharton
- Pride by William Wharton
- Naomi by Junichiro Tanizaki
- No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai
- The Trial by Franz Kafka
- The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
- Frisk by Dennis Cooper
- Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky
- Bernice Bobs Her Hair by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Black Rain by Masuji Ibuse
- Thirst for Love by Yukio Mishima
- The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
- Miracle of the Rose by Jean Genet
- Crash by J.G. Ballard
- The Atrocity Exhibition by J.G. Ballard
- Blown Away by A.E. Hotchner
- Knots by R.D. Laing
- Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry
- The Waste Land by T.S. Elliot
- The Torture Garden by Octave Mirbeau
- The Runaway Soul by Harold Brodkey