Look, I even won't post this on MySpace because by now, Toby Litt will think I'm a mad stalker and I'll be in his next book. But he keeps writing brilliant books!
This one is just a ditty compared to that previous monster, HOSPITAL, and it's actually a collection of short stories that were already published. I had read two of them in EXHIBITIONISM, but they were just little virtuoso tidbits, now they have a new width. I already knew the story of Lindsay the First Fan, but it's different when retold by Clap, the drummer of super-famous and by now slightly establishment Vancouver band okay, because Litt manages to make you forget that he's posing as Clap: the book seems really written by a musician, and surely edited by a journalist, you know what rock autobiographies are like (you don't? Sorry, I have this guilty pleasure, Boy George got me hitched).
So, this real person, and not this writer, called Clap (Brian for you and for the Rotterdam girl in the very first page of the novel)
(Rotterdam? Can Litt please get OUT of my BRAIN?)
recounts stages of his life as a rockstar. It's a cliché after the other, check them:
- young hopefuls lost in foreign cities during the first ever headline tour
- groupies, useless sex (but the girl in the London hotel is definitely something)
- drugs, alcohol, an overdose in LA
- totally unbearable frontman who gets all the fame and the women
- global fame, boredom, money doesn't bring happiness, boo hoo
- Buddhism (oh NO, you'll be thinking when this particular chapter arrives)
- illness, hospital, near-death
- shitty management
- recording the next album in Geneva, not actually talking to each other
- someone obviously dies and is substituted in the following tour
- kid fan hangs himself and they feel personally guilty
- happiness is only away from the music world and in the family.
Name a rock stereotype, it's in. And how, you'll ask, does that make the book interesting?
First, because it demonstrates how all rockstar lives inevitably follow the same trajectory, unless you're Cat Stevens.
Second, because it's written with such an insight that they sound real, justified and believable.
Even Clap's language changes over the years, from the short and heavily punctuated rambling of his drugged youth, to a bitter but witty 30-year-old (some of the bits here are hilarious, he develops a killer jaded-musician deadpan style), to the very articulate but disillusioned and melancholy (and slightly pompous, because they do become like that, don't they) middle-aged superstar. It's believable. It's from an insider, and it's the most realistic account I ever read, from a musician who doesn't even exist.
If you think "oh come on, musicians are not really that stupid, they wouldn't write like that, Litt is exaggerating for satire", well, do check the home page of a Very Big Indie Band, won't name any names, probably the top indie band in the world today. Really, do try. You'll be surprised....Continua