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Touching from a Distance: Ian Curtis and Joy Division

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  5,296 Ratings  ·  268 Reviews
This is an account of the mesmerising life and tragic death of Ian Curtis, lead singer of Joy Division, told from the perspective of his wife Deborah. It contains a discography, gig list and a full set of lyrics.
Paperback, 212 pages
Published April 4th 1996 by Faber & Faber (first published 1995)
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Community Reviews

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Jan 31, 2013 Mariel rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: don't walk away in silence
Recommended to Mariel by: don't walk away
It was small and wrapped from head to toe in dirty rags, swaddled like a new-born baby. It was suspended from the telegraph pole and fluttered in the breeze before sailing gently down. Like an autumn leaf, it landed softly in the brook and its streamlined shape was taken quickly on the surface of the water, disappearing into the distance. I squeeze my own whole body to scream but on waking all I could hear were my own muffled sobs.
My small daughter cuddled closer and tried to comfort me: 'Don'
Feb 16, 2010 Asyidena rated it liked it
This is a wonderful peek into the Iconic Ian Curtis' private life; however I suggest that you keep in mind who is telling the story. My suggestion would be to read “The Life of Ian Curtis – Torn Apart” by Mick Middles and Lindsay Reade either while reading this book or directly after reading it. This may help to buffer some of the incriminations Deborah Curtis brings forward against her long deceased husband. My problem with Deborah Curtis and this book is that she is generous with details on ac ...more
Aug 13, 2015 Vanessa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I started reading this book around 4 or 5 years ago, and was really enjoying it at the time. And then I put it down for some unknown reason. I finally got around to picking it up again, and decided to read from the start because I couldn't remember where I'd left off before - and I'm so glad I did.

This is a very touching and painful biography of Ian Curtis's life to read, as told from the close, personal perspective of his widow Deborah Curtis. I am glad that I have never idolised Ian Curtis, be
Aug 21, 2007 Joshua rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: joy division fans
A "tell-all" of everybody's favorite suicide...Ian Curtis. You like Manchester, you like New Order, a fan of Joy Division, want to know more about the man, the myth, the deceased frontman....then read this. If you don't then, don't read this...duh, what did you think I was going to say. Beg you to read this? Whatever you probably LOVE Interpol and think they are so original...without Joy Divsion you wouldn't have any of that stuff. Original PERIOD. Me lady is a big fan of Joy Division/New Order ...more
Oct 14, 2012 Ron rated it it was ok
The difficulty in reading this book is not that Ian's wife paints him as a racist, violent, abusive controlling, insecure, right-wing mess of a human being, but that this boring housewife (how could he ever have had any interest in her?) portrays herself wholly as a victim for the first half of the book. One example is that she bites him on the back, drawing blood, and is pushed out of bed, taking no responsibility for her action--saying the taste of the blood 'shocked' her--while portraying the ...more
Oct 27, 2012 Laura rated it really liked it
I wouldn't say Deborah Curtis is a great writer but the way she manages to convey her complex feelings about Ian Curtis is both believable and touching. If you've seen the movie "Control" and/or "24 Hour Party People", you might want to read this book as it strips away the "myth from the man" to reveal Ian's, rather intense, character flaws and emotional issues that pre-date his epilepsy. I was especially surprised to read about his violence and control issues. He controlled what Deborah wore, w ...more
Sep 01, 2011 David rated it it was ok
Shelves: big-white-square
I think you can skip the book and just read this article from The Guardian:

The article is more eloquent, more poignant and shorter. I liked this bit:
"I saw a review on Amazon once, somebody had written, 'She doesn't understand her subject'. And I thought, 'Well, surely that's the point?'" She sighs.

This middle section of "Touching from a Distance" dragged for me. Lots of arguing about carrying amps at gigs.

I hate it when Northern-types bang on about London
Paul Gleason
Dec 20, 2012 Paul Gleason rated it did not like it
Readers of this book have to remember that just because Deborah Curtis was married to Ian, she doesn't have special insight into his personality. All biographies are CONSTRUCTS - and reading this book brings you no closer (yes, I used that word) to Ian than simply spinning one of Joy Division's records.

The essential problem with the book is that DC presents IC as such a one-dimensional character - a rat bastard and terrible husband.

An exercise: Listen to ANY Joy Division song and ask yourself a
Aug 25, 2013 Grzesiek rated it really liked it
Having seen Control for the third time, I was very eager to read this book. Unsurprisingly, the book written by Deborah, gave me, and not only me, the sad, dejecting and on the other hand, beautiful image of a person, whose only wish was to become famous and release an LP and a single.

This book, bearing in mind being subjective, gave me a further insight into Deborah and Ian's problematic life. His being distant to everybody made him interesting to some people around.
I must admit that I feel a
Oct 10, 2010 Sarah rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 09, 2007 Spencer rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Manchester Post-Punk, and that's about it.
This is an mildly interesting read, though it's probably only of interest to fans of Joy Division, Factory and the late 70's Manchester Post-Punk scene. Deborah Curtis's writing could definitely use more life, but as far as a document of events it functions ably. Some people will probably even find the mannered English delivery a nice respite from what's usually found in rock bios, and I appreciated the effort she seemed to put into being objective. Of course, it makes for a great companion piec ...more

My favorite JD songs, in no particular order:

I'm including these because I've definitely been in a Joy Division type of mood lately (winters in the Hub have a very Manchester-esque bleakness and bitterness, I'd imagine,
Jeff Jackson
Aug 08, 2016 Jeff Jackson rated it liked it
Shelves: punk-rock-etc
Some parts are a bit flat and reportorial, while others are raw and harrowing. The sections about Ian Curtis's epilepsy are particularly troubling in their implications. This account shreds many of the romantic notions surrounding Joy Division, without ever quite touching the mystery of the music itself.
Jan 21, 2013 Annalisa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Per lungo tempo ho evitato di acquistarlo, nonostante Jan Curtis sia uno degli idoli della mia adolescenza: pensavo di sapere quello che mi aspettava. E infatti: mi è dispiaciuta la non obiettività . Il punto di vista è unilaterale, quello di una moglie dopo tanti anni incredibilmente livorosa. Ma anche il tono sciatto. Una scrittura a due mani non avrebbe certo nociuto. Che sbaglio, leggerlo. Voglio che i miei "Idoli" rimangano sul piedistallo, quasi "non-umani"...
Britten Thompson
Apr 24, 2015 Britten Thompson rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is a horrendously disjointed, and self-serving piece of vitriolic slander born of 15 years of vehemence boiling inside Deborah Curtis.
I don't believe Ian Curtis was perfect, however, I don't believe he was the devil Deborah made him out to be. She alternates between trash-talking Ian to saying how much she loves him, and what a good wife she was to him. She goes so far as to say that he faked some of his seizures, and that his previous suicide attempts were for attention, or to act out some
Jul 22, 2008 Lori rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Joy Division fans; ex-punks and New Romantics; lovers of great music
Recommended to Lori by: a fellow Joy Division devotee
Shelves: music, memoir
For those of us who are lucky or, perhaps, foolish enough to allow music to rule a large part of our lives, there is always an elite set of artists and or songs that make such an impact that it is almost painful. The band that smacked me right across the gob and changed me forever was Joy Division.

By the time I heard the astonishing voice and, yes, haunting words of Ian Curtis, he had been dead at least 3 years by his own hand. Ian was a James Dean type persona. He took himself out when he was o
Dec 05, 2007 Jason rated it really liked it
They say you should never meet your idols because you will usually be disappointed. That was somewhat the case with reading this book. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Joy Division and Ian Curtis' lyrics. However, he was not very kind to his wife at all. Of course this could have been exageraged since she did write this book. The 1st part of the book focus on this a little much and I started to get tired of it. However the 2nd part of the book tends to take a look at Ian's whole situation (at least from his wif ...more
Sep 18, 2016 S rated it really liked it
If you've built your idea of Ian Curtis through the biopic Control, or if as a fan you insist on perpetuating the idea that Ian was a troubled misunderstood soul, you're probably missing part of the picture. I won't deny that Ian must have been all that, but he was a human being who also contained flaws within the net of his personality.
This biography is also a partial and subjective look into Ian Curtis' life, but by accessing many partial views perhaps we may aproach the truth of who Ian reall
Peter Shields
Apr 27, 2014 Peter Shields rated it it was amazing
Moving, intimate and a wise insight from his loving and devoted wife, Deborah. Interesting to read after watching Twenty Four Hours Party People. Deborah portrays Ian as a fragile human being, who didn't want to let anyone down, whilst attempting to stay true to what he knew made him happy. For someone who loves Greater Manchester and the people of Manchester, it was a journey to that time and place through intimate domestic scenes of family and home life. Thank you Deborah for making your story ...more
Patricia Marie
Jul 03, 2015 Patricia Marie rated it it was amazing
basically it has changed the way I used to think about joy division, Ian Curtis suicide and etc... also made mine perceptions about life and marriage change a lot. Deborah Curtis is nothing that I had imagine that she was, she was not the needy and annoying rock star wife that we would suppose. when we are a joy division fan we believe and clichés and prejudices about everybody involved and just don't realise that they are nothing but opinions. facts has to be checked. I would strong recommend t ...more
Deborah Curtis illustrates the story of Ian Curtis- at home, work, and in Joy Division- with a truly impressive amount of tenderness, patience, and love. Losing a loved one to mental illness is extremely emotionally traumatic, in ways that can't ever really be articulated. One thing she does make very clear, that I agree with, is that the guilt is overwhelming for every party involved, though no one is actually truly responsible.

Deborah Curtis doesn't really try to explain her emotional respons
Airiz C
Jun 26, 2011 Airiz C rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“I stared at him, he was so still. Then the rope - I hadn’t noticed the rope. The rope from the clothes rack was around his neck. I ran through to the sitting room and picked up the telephone. No, supposing I was wrong—another false alarm. I ran back to the kitchen and looked at his face –a long string of saliva hung from his mouth. Yes, he really had done it. What to do next? I looked around the room expecting to see Ian standing in a corner watching my reaction. My instinct that he was playing ...more
Oct 15, 2011 Bill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent read, and a must-find for any Joy Division fan. Sadly, it reads more like a chronicle of missing the signs about Ian Curtis' depression than anything else. Yes, there are a number of great insights, and it provides a first-person description of some of the more storied events in the development of the Manchester scene at the time. Yes, it gets into all the nitty-gritty of Curtis' affair with Annik Honore and what that did to his already delicate psyche. However, when reading this, I ...more
Andrea Mesch
Oct 09, 2008 Andrea Mesch rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Joy Division, music, Manchester
I was kind of disappointed after reading this book. And I guess that was good. It was my final step on the road to more independence and maturity.
After being a real fanatic about Joy Division in the 80ies I let that part of my life sleep for another decade. It popped up time and again, but was no longer having the impact it back then had on me.
Reading this book closed the final chapter of this story.

Being Ian Curtis was even more sad than I imagined it to be, but also much less heroic. Good.
Feb 05, 2013 Ashleigh rated it really liked it
This book has seemingly taken me ages but library books got in the way. This book gives an insight into Ian's life that other people would struggle to give. It shows you how much of a lost and confused individual he was. At times completely un-likeable but always totally relatable. Deborah Curtis tells us the story of their lives together right from the very start, through struggling with jobs, money and the band to becoming almost too big for his boots and leaving her for another woman. Ian com ...more
Nov 27, 2014 Dierregi rated it liked it
Shelves: biographies, rock
I bought the book after having watched the movie "Control", which I enjoyed. However, I was surprised to learn that such a dispassionate movie was based on the biography written by Ian Curtis's widow.

I guessed that a woman with such a troubled past could hardly have written an unbiased report of her experience. Turns out, my instinct was right. Deborah Curtis' version is certainly not flattering for Ian. The tone of the book is bitter and resentful, even if it was written many years after the ev
Apr 08, 2011 Joe rated it it was amazing
Sometime around 4/1/11--I just started the book. Ian was a bit of a scamp as a kid who liked to get off on any chemical he could get his hands on. He and his chums got involved in some social services scheme in Macclesfield where they'd visit the elderly. While one entertained their aging charge, the other would rummage through the medicine cabinet. In one instance, the drug they found was stronger than anything Ian and his friend Tony had ever tried before. They both wound up in the hospital, g ...more
Bianca Jane Manahane
Jul 25, 2012 Bianca Jane Manahane rated it really liked it
My brother had showed me the biopic entitled "Control" two years ago, and I have yet to watch "24 Hour Party People". Although, I felt that reading this novel really helped me understand just what was going on in "Control". Before, I simply listened to Joy Division because I thought they were one of the greatest post-punk groups of their time. After reading this novel, it really opened my eyes to how tragic life was for not only Ian Curtis, but everyone involved in his life. The only thing I wis ...more
Eric Bui
Aug 26, 2013 Eric Bui rated it did not like it
Debbie Curtis comes off as a really bitter, jilted wife in this book. And of course, if everything she said in it is true, then by all means that seems appropriate. However it makes for a really difficult and plodding read. The whole book she just seems to paint herself as an innocent bystander as her world around her is falling apart. Yet she never seems to take any responsibility for her own actions/inactions. Ie: not leaving Ian sooner when she knew he was having an affair, or when he was tre ...more
Dec 19, 2007 Victoria rated it liked it
An interesting if depressing book. The title is very apt - Deborah Curtis's tone is bizarrely clinical and distant. Perhaps she thought writing in such a style would be less judgmental, perhaps so much time has passed the raw emotion has faded, either way it just comes across as odd from someone who experienced such trauma at such a young age. Ian Curtis comes across as a dislikable and thoroughly selfish, self-absorbed character, Deborah herself a rather clingy, naive young woman. Ultimately th ...more
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“How unhappy does one have to be before living seems worse than dying?” 64 likes
“Ian was living in fairyland and in our own way we all helped him to stay there.” 11 likes
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