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The EXES: A NOVEL Hardcover – July 6, 1998


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (July 6, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684834812
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684834818
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,317,070 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This charming novel charts the last days of rock as seen through the eyes of the four members of the Exes, a painfully hip Boston-area indie alterna-pop band. Each of the four chapters takes on the tale of the band's conception and fruition from the perspective of a different member, producing an omniscient Rashomon-like narrative that weaves pop reference and nerdy rock-geek sensibility into a combination Harlequin Romance/Celebrity Tell-All. Author Pagan Kennedy is best known for her zine Pagan's Head and her handbook of all things '70s, Platforms. She puts that subcultural know-how to work in this fast-moving story about rockers who love their own images more than the notes and tempos of the music they play. --James DiGiovanna

From Publishers Weekly

The fights, friendships, loves and breakups of a modestly up-and-coming Boston band, The Exes (so named because they are all ex-boyfriends and -girlfriends), come to light from the perspective of each band member in Kennedy's hilarious, smart second novel (after Spin-sters). Rock-snob Hank wants the group to be "so obscure and brilliant that just knowing the name of this band would be like saying a password." Lilly, on the other hand, wants to be famous and has what she calls "the stink," which Hank recognizes as the soul and genuine talent he lacks. Shaz is a mystery to the rest of the Exes: she grew up in a devoutly Muslim, Pakistani home but gained her reputation as the bassist for a lesbian punk band. Drummer Walt dropped out of Harvard grad school after a nervous breakdown and has been working in dead-end jobs and struggling to hold on to his sanity ever since. As the band gains a reputation and starts to tour, old romances rekindle and bridges burn, and Kennedy gives us our own insider tour of the indie music business. Yet the hip trappings are just that, trappings: Kennedy captures the voices and the spirits of these young musicians with depth, originality and an imaginative scope that transcends their tiny, incestuous world. (July) FYI: Pagan Kennedy was the editor of the popular zine Pagan and was dubbed "the queen of zines" by Wired magazine.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

I found the book to be a very easy and entertaining read.
Chris Hrycaj(chrycaj@prodigy.net)
As well, the book's "insights" regarding modern relationships, at times, come across as a bit too pat, a bit too easy.
Jeffrey Ellis
I am a huge fan and I hope she continues to write amazing novels.
toni

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Ellis on November 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Pagan Kennedy is one of those occasionally maligned writers who makes their home in the narrow purgatory between serious literature and pop kitsch. With a vision that seems to have been shaped by equal measures of too many postmodern lit. courses in college and a youth composed of watching Three's Company on TV, Kennedy and other writers of her ilk are too often either unfairly dismissed or hugely overrated. In reality, they are doing what all authors, in the end, do -- recording their world as they see it. Occasionally, a great work of art emerges (such as Michael Chabon's Wonderboys) and occasionally, the result is an all-out fiasco (i.e., the career of Bret Easton Ellis). And much more frequently, the result is a book crafted with obvious intelligence that still remains frustratingly uneven and perfect example of this is Kennedy's novel the Exes.
Taking place in the independent music scene of Boston, the Exes tells the story of an up-and-coming band that is made up exclusively of ex-lovers. While this might seem to be a bit too cute and gimmicky, Kennedy very adroitly acknowledges the gimmick behind the band and makes no secret of the fact that her characters pursue the idea more as an exercise in advertising than anything else. To her credit, Kennedy also proceeds to rather intelligently investigate the ramifications of such a gimmick and she treats the whole idea with a comendable and clear-eyed seriousness. She doesn't just coast on that one idea and that alone sets her book above a lot of other recent fiction. As well, Kennedy obviously knows the world of underground music and, when dealing with the gossipy and incestous nature of Boston's indie world, her writing snaps with the knowledge of an insider.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Andy Plattner on February 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Pagan Kennedy writes splendidly. The Exes is a mass of energy with distant lightning bolts of real wisdom. One trifling gripe: how can you write a book about a band comprised of ex-lovers and not give the slightest tip o'the hat to the Big (Fleetwood) Mac? They were hip once, too. Anyway, Kennedy's a star.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Shannon on October 4, 2004
Format: Paperback
I've re-read this slim volume a number of times because it's a quick, effortless and enjoyable enough read; I just re-read it again after getting it back from a friend to whom I'd loaned it, and i thought i'd comment.

I should say that this is the only novel of Kennedy's that I've cared for. The structure with the four chapters, each dedicated to a single band member, is a clever device and gives the reader a chance to get into the mind of each character separately.

The character that i felt was most interesting was Shaz, the bass player; she and her section were the most developed back-story-wise, since most of her part is a flashback, but we also get more information and description regarding her family, peeks into her unusual job and her apartment than with any of the other characters. The story of her ex, Walt the drummer, is also enlightening because throughout the rest of the book he comes of as an awkward enigma, so to get into his head at last is fulfilling. Walt's story also gets a different tone from the rest as it's told all in present tense.

I was less inspired by the other characters; Hank, the guitarist, gets fairly typecast as the wannabe rocker whose personality takes a downturn once the band gets going in earnest. His chapter is somewhat skimpy regarding himself since half of it is taken up by information about Lilly, his former girlfriend who comes up with the Exes concept. Given Lilly's personality (a hyperactive, self-centered and somewhat bratty attention hog) it's fairly appropriate that Lilly takes over some of Hank's space, though her section would have been more than enough for the reader regarding her character. Lilly does evolve somewhat as the story progresses, though her whininess remains intact throughout and does get old.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By missziggy on June 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
The Exes is a great book. Kennedy uses just the right language for this kind of book, and she really (and I mean really) knows her subject. Trust me, this is what bands are like. It probably sounds like an old cliché, but there is a certain type of people who play a certain kind of instrument in a band. Drummers are usually like Walt, bassists like Shaz, organizing lead guitarists like Hank and extrovert singers like Lilly. Kennedy couldn't be more spot on. She succeeds to make the chapters credible from everyone's point of view. I haven't read any of Kennedy's other work, but I'm about to. You should read this one. You really should.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Chris Hrycaj(chrycaj@prodigy.net) on July 28, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I found the book to be a very easy and entertaining read. It was a very believable story about four ex girlfriend/boyfriends who form a band. It chronicles the emotional struggles that being in a band puts on its members, especially since they were all sleeping with each other before. It's definitely a generation-X book, and I would not recommend it to anyone but gen-Xers.
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Format: Paperback
The review is for four-and-a-half stars, actually.

After having reading Spinsters, I tackled this book, expecting that it would be more developed and much deeper. And I was right. The Exes is a great book, a charming and friendly little novel that was well worth my time.

The story revolves around a band made up of two couples that were previously in relationships, and it follows the story of how they form into a dynamic performing unit while also trying to make sense of themselves and each other. The viewpoints of all four members are offered, giving a great illustration of the different views of the same story.

The first thing I loved about the book was how well Kennedy portrayed a world so many of us know, that adolescent/twenty-something world of alternative/counterculture culture. Kennedy has always captured this quite well, because she goes beyond the pretension of pose and trying to make a name for yourself to instead portray a world where people try to find an identity and assert who they are. She is a sympathetic writer here, one who made this reader know all about her characters and yet still like them.

I also enjoyed the interplay of relationships and feelings between the characters, as there was more reality than drama in their actions. I liked how a character such as Hank could almost innocently rule over the other characters at times without meaning to-or even being aware of it-and yet continue in the behavior nonetheless.

I thought the book was fun, well-paced, and good in its timing. I even enjoyed the momentary confusion of picking up the story as it changed from one character to another-it was an agreeable challenge.

One final note: After a spate of publishing in the 90s, on the crest of the Gen-X wave, I see Kennedy hasn't published much in recent years. I hope that we see more from her in the near future.
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