Books

Nina Simone’s Gum by Warren Ellis: A delightful diary of Ellis’s musical life and friendships

Warren Ellis uses a piece of chewing gum stolen from his idol's piano top to mythical levels, with a few good stories along the way.

Warren Ellis holds his violin on stage in 2009

Warren Ellis uses a piece of chewing gum stolen from his idol's piano top to mythical levels, with a few good stories along the way. Image: smokeghost/Flickr

Nina Simone’s Gum by Warren Ellis is out now (Faber & Faber, £20) Cover: Waterstones

Nina Simone’s Gum sees the Dirty Three violinist and long-time Nick Cave collaborator Warren Ellis describe how a piece of chewing gum he grabbed from his idol Simone’s piano top was transformed into, in Cave’s words, “a religious artefact”.

The story of the gum’s journey from soft palate to marble plinth is tracked, but this is also a delightful diary of Ellis’s musical life and friendships, as well as a consideration of how objects become meaningful when connected to memory.

A distinctly amiable and intelligent host, Ellis provides insight into some unusual creative minds. “I threw the idea out there that we could make the percussive aspect of the score using teeth and prosthetic limbs, glass eyeballs, wooden legs, and drop some melodies on top. This was greeted with enthusiasm.” A joy from start to finish.

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead is out on September 14 (Fleet, £16.99)
Nina Simone’s Gum by Warren Ellis is out now (Faber & Faber, £20)

@Janeannie

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