Boy Friends by Michael Pedersen review – in the company of men

A Scottish poet’s memoir reflects touchingly on male friendship and masculinity

Scott Hutchison, a musician and visual artist best known as the singer in the band Frightened Rabbit, took his own life in 2018, aged 36. He was close friends with the Scottish poet Michael Pedersen, providing the illustrations for his second poetry collection, Oyster. In his new memoir, Boy Friends, Pedersen pays tender tribute to his late pal, remembering his “marshmallow-melting gooey grin”, the brilliance of his drawings – “the morose made funny, dolefulness shadowed in love” – and the good times they shared: road trips in South Africa and the Highlands; indulgent binges on oysters, Argyll smoked mussels and various obscure tipples.

These reminiscences give way to a thoughtful meditation on male friendship in general. We revisit several of Pedersen’s intense early-20s friendships, including a “sword sharp, politically clued-up” fellow student called David – “he thumbed me like a trashy magazine, I read him like a clever comic” – and Rowley, “a wonderful, mis-wired weirdo of impetuous passions”. He is, by his own account, somewhat emotionally incontinent, prone to “clumsily spilling out sentiment here, there and everywhere … I would tell me friends I loved them constantly.” This trait seems to have been shared by those towards whom he gravitated: “I always found friends who wanted to love too much, who collided rather than simply met.”

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