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The Big Wheel Paperback – May 1, 2003
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Some of the old jokes are good to hear in the retelling, some new ones are hilarious even with an elaborate setup, and there are a few stories which are great fun. As a book it might have worked better in installments. As road-trip prose it's inventive and annoying at the same time. In that way it stands up, surprisingly. This book won't be what you expect (it's not what anyone expected), and it may not satisfy satisfactorily, you might not feel complimented if you live in Texas or the midwest U.S., and it might give you a case of the bleaks. But it also might help you realize what's important in life, how family and love matter, and how creativity matters - it really does. Things that have to come from your own perspective, after contemplating the words in this book.
There are a thousand reasons why a band breaks up. It's a miracle Jake & company found three guys as good and able to survive together into the '80's. Bruce has said that Elvis went from being IN a band to HAVING a band, but let's face it, there was never a project without Elvis Costello. The Attractions are the world's greatest band according to Elvis Costello at the induction ceremony. That case can be reasonably argued, in my opinion. However this book does not relate to much of that. I recommend it to the E.C. & The Attractions fan, but don't keep turning pages looking for the part that pissed off Elvis and got Bruce "fired from the band, twice!" It is not to be found. In fact, that appears to have been a fabrication largely from Bruce (by his own introspective admission) to sell, perhaps, more books.
Bruce Thomas is a superb bassist -- an extraordinary one, even. He is also clearly highly intelligent, well read and well educated. And he wants you to know that on every single page.
The main aspect of the book that bothered me was Bruce's repeated expressions of contempt for his audience. Hey, we get it Bruce. You get tired of fans ligging about asking you what strings you use over and over again, and Holiday Inns suck, an life on the road can be monotonous and hard. We get it. You're not a dumb rock star, you are an erudite English gentleman. Enough already.
For Costello fans, it is pretty obvious to me that there is no truth to the legend that this is an inflammatory book with loads of Elvis dirt that got him fired -- unless you consider eating too much sushi a salacious detail.
I am not saying it's not worth a read as a novel, but keep your expectations where they would be for any first time novelist.