TOUCHING FROM A DISTANCE: Deborah Curtis Writes About Her Life With Husband Ian Curtis

Dear Reader,

Touching From A Distance: Ian Curtis And Joy Division (1995), written by Ian Curtis’ widow Deborah Curtis, inspired the movie Control (see my 11/29/08 blog post), explores Manchester, England post-punk singer Ian Curtis’ quickly earned fame as lead singer and lyricist for the band Joy Division, and his immaturity and/or mental illness, which may have led to his death at 23. He neglected his young wife and his newborn baby. He carried on an affair and traveled with a Belgian woman. He had an epileptic condition, which led to grand mal seizures while he performed. In May 1980, he hanged himself, leaving behind a wife, 1-year-old daughter, and lots of questions, the most important being Why? Deborah Curtis doesn’t have an answer. No one does.

I read Touching From A Distance because I hoped to learn about Ian Curtis’ writing process, specifically how came up with songs like “Transmission” and “Control.” As it turned out, Deborah wasn’t included in his private process, and his band mates were too involved in their lives to care, so there wasn’t much to learn. But I came away with something more interesting than his writing process: my thoughts evoked by this quote from page 121 (paperback 2007).

“The one good thing to come out of Ian’s attempted suicide [several months before his death] was that an appointment was made for him to see a psychiatrist at Parkside Hospital. Amazingly, when the day came for Ian’s visit to the psychiatrist, we went together. On the way there he told me how unhappy he was in the music business. He said that when “Transmission” and Unknown Pleasures had been released, he had achieved his ambitions. Now there was nothing else left for him to do. All he ever intended was to have one album and one single pressed. His aspirations had never extended to recording “Love Will Tear Us Apart” or Closer. As I drove along, he told me how he wanted to leave Joy Division and join a circus.”

Ian Curtis said all he wanted to do was release one album and one single. He didn’t intend to record more music, but he did. Why? Did he expect it of himself? Did other people push him? Could he have stopped after just one success? If he’d quit, would he still have been considered an artist, a genius? Did writing past his initial desires deplete him, cause his death? I don’t know.

I wonder how many talented writers also strive to publish that one book, story, or poem, and once they do, they shut away their talent. (Or painters, actors, and so on.) Do they consider their job done? Do they ever feel like they’re wasting their talents? When I was a dance teacher I choreographed dozens of dances for my students but never managed to do the same for myself. Until I did. Terrified, I performed my dance for hundreds of students and their families, and I succeeded beautifully. The audience loved me. And as I carried my box of congratulatory bouquets to my car I thought I’m done. There wasn’t anything left to do. I didn’t need dance anymore.

So I left dance, but I didn’t join a circus. I joined writing. And I expect I’ll be there a long time. I can’t imagine there’ll come a day when I’ll no longer need writing.


3 Responses to “TOUCHING FROM A DISTANCE: Deborah Curtis Writes About Her Life With Husband Ian Curtis”

  1. 1 darren meacham 08/02/2009 at 12:52 pm


    is it possible to quote a line from love will tear us apart in a book i am writing about the miners strike in wales


  2. 2 Faye Quam Heimerl 08/06/2009 at 4:54 pm

    Hello Darren,

    Yes, it is possible to quote a line from “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” Note in the sentence that includes the line, or elsewhere, the copyright information for the song.

    But, I should tell you, the music industry is a lot more particular about who uses what quotes than is the writing industry. Given this, I suggest you request permission from the copyright holder before you quote this line. They may charge a fee you for this, but then they may say “yeah, go ahead and use it.”

    If you’d like information about how to request permission, please contact me at

    Best Wishes For Your Writing Project!

  3. 3 Linda G. 02/22/2013 at 6:46 am

    I think it is wonderful. I now how you must have suffered so long. I was born July 17 and it just seem that people born of that year are so creative but also very self destructive. I understand your sence of hopeless ness in trying to help him. I am in constant fear of my own destructive thoughts and honestly, no matter who I am with, it is still the same. On top of that I have a brain disorder. I have seizures. The cancer sign is filled with contradictions. I too suffer depression, PTSD, so many problems. I feel that it was inebetable. He was going to go at anytime. I just want to say, you are a strong woman any other would have gone. I do admire you so much.

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April 2009
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Photo Credits: Header - Barbara McNichol, Author - Bernadette Garcia

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