Thursday, February 16, 2012
I'd moved back to New York after going to college in small town New England, and that made me fidgety about the safety of my environs. I rarely went into Alphabet City, unless I was going to Pyramid (which several of my good friends too much for me to avoid completely), but Avenue B was about the farthest east I roamed. Amusingly enough, I noted a few years later that the neighborhood had perhaps moved from unvisitable to unaffordable awfully quickly.
Both kids come from broken homes. Jude lives with his mom, whose glass-blowing skills are renowned among bong users, while his dad's mad skills growing pot turned out to be more appreciated in New York (the details are in the book). Teddy's mom is more of a mess. Queen Bea hasn't really let Teddy know who his father is; he just knows that he is Indian. Gandhi, not Geronimo. And his older brother Johnny has already left Burlington, I mean Lintonburg, to live the life of a straight edge rocker.
In a lot of ways, the story has a ring of A Visit to the Goon Squad, not so much in structure (which is more traditional), but in some themes and settings. Henderson's novel is fairly compressed in time, but this is very much a story about change. Surprisingly enough, I was also saw some connections to The Art of Fielding, but with kids a little younger but still in that age of discovery, with music substituting for books and baseball as the guiding influence and passion, and yes, at least one homoerotic subplot.
Yes, Henderson is coming on Wednesday, February 29, 7 pm (editor's note: this event was cancelled, due to a death in the family). And what an honor this is! Ten Thousand Saints was one of the most lauded books of 2011. Here's Nick Hornby's review in The Believer:
Speaking of Nick Hornby, I had started making a list of rock novels last year (including High Fidelity, of course), just when it was a little too late to do a window around A Visit from the Goon Squad. It's apparently not an easy subject to write about--beginning authors often get niched by focusing on music, while well known authors are said to stumble. I was surprised that even Tom Perotta (The Wishbones) and Jay McInerney (The Last of the Savages) couldn't keep their rock novels going, meaning they are out of print. (Wrong! It turns out that McInerney's novel is still in print--it just is not longer stocked by Ingram. Thanks, Jason G.)
So the window. Rock novels. Here is what I came up with:
Reservation Blues, by Sherman Alexie
Goodbye Without Leaving, by Laurie Colwin
Great Jones Street, by Don DeLillo
The Commitments, by Roddy Doyle
A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan
Ten Thousand Saints, by Eleanor Henderson
High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby
You Don’t Love Me Yet, by Jonathan Lethem
The Armageddon Rag, by George R. R. Martin
The Song is You, by Arthur Phillips
Never Mind the Pollacks, by Neal Pollack
The Ground Beneath her Feet, by Salman Rushdie
Rock Bottom, by Michael Schilling
Stone Arabia, Dana Spiotta
What's on your list? And just as a qualifier, we're looking for books in print! I found plenty of books I wasn't able to sell. But if you have a suggestion, please send it as a comment and I will post it.