Lit shorts: Cocker, on paper

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Mother, Brother, Lover
By Jarvis Cocker
Faber and Faber
208 pp., hardcover, $17

 
Books of lyrics — words uprooted from the music and set down naked on the page — are traditionally published with either self-congratulation or doubts by songwriters. Jarvis Cocker has some doubts.

“Lyrics are not poetry: they are words to songs,” he writes in the reluctant and faintly self-conscious introduction to Mother, Brother, Lover: The Selected Lyrics of Jarvis Cocker. But the former Pulp front man doesn’t give himself enough credit. His persona as a sexual fantasist makes for devilishly entertaining stories — scotched lovers, adultery, watching someone’s sister from the bedroom closet — all of which become more vivid here. Pulp classics like “Do You Remember the First Time?” are plain funnier when you can pick up on the subtleties in punctuation and position of words. Notes in the back are similarly revealing. The title of the misfit anthem “Mis-shapes” comes from chocolates called by the same name that are too malformed to fit in boxes.

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