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Daron's Guitar Chronicles: Volume Seven Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
From the moment Daron was introduced as a teenager in the 80s in Chapter One, not only afraid of anyone finding out he’s gay but so afraid of simply being gay, Tan has taken readers on a journey deep into the life of her young guitar prodigy. We’ve followed Daron through creative highs and lows; through family drama; through falling in love with the one boy who would turn his life upside down and inside out (not once but a multitude of times…and still is), and the author has done so with an ease so seemingly effortless that we ourselves are notched directly into the world of music and the lives of the characters who people it. This series truly is realistic fiction at some of its finest, consistently blowing me away, chapter after chapter, with attention to detail and a protagonist I’m invested in to the extreme. Daron’s narrative voice is so utterly sincere, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes frustrating, but always engaging. This is one of those series where I want so badly to see whether or not he gets his happy ending (read: the happy ending I want for him), yet…the thought of there being an end is too much to consider.
For seventy-nine chapters in this installment of the serial, we head into the 1990s as we follow Daron from the US to Spain, where he spends a brief interlude with Orlando, a guy who can’t seem to admit out loud that he’s probably gay, or at least bi. And, we get a glimpse of a Daron who is becoming more comfortable in his own identity as a gay man, something his time with Jonathan helped him to do, even though the relationship didn’t end up being what either man needed. Daron’s love for his lead singer Ziggy is always there, always at the forefront of everything for Daron—sometimes even in his music—and we’re teased by an almost-mending of their relationship in these chapters. Now, if only Ziggy were singing the same tune. One of the most frustrating and compelling aspects of this epic masterwork is the push me/pull you of the relationship between these two characters, and how invested I’ve become in their future. It’s an addiction of the sweetest kind.
One of the things Cecilia Tan has done so brilliantly in the first person storytelling is to not only disappear behind this character but to allow us to see Daron through Daron’s eyes. Rather than his voice telling us how we should think and feel at any given moment, I love that there are times when his frustration makes me sad; his sadness makes me frustrated; his anger makes me glad that he’s angry, while at other times I wish he’d step a bit more carefully. And his happiness… well, his happiness only comes in fits and starts, so that makes me sad too. But therein lies the beauty of this series—Tan builds upon the story and characters layer by layer—there are no cookie-cutter caricatures or cardboard stereotypes (even when the music business might demand it)—until you feel a degree of certainty that the author has known these people at some point in her life because they’re so authentic, the investment in them so complete. There isn’t a lot of action in these chapters, nor is there a lot of sex—this is, simply put, literary fiction at its finest: character driven and filled with all the flaws and challenges and perfect imperfections of the human condition, set against the backdrop of Daron’s near-obsessive need to play his guitars.
I know the word count in this series is intimidating. I can’t even begin to fathom how many words into Daron’s life we are now, nor do I know how many more words Cecilia Tan has left to offer her readers, but if there’s ever been a work of storytelling I’d beg someone to dig into, it’s this one. It’s pretty amazing, in my most humble opinion, and deserves all the recognition it’s received so far.
Ok, wow! This is unusually good stuff. This is also very unusual stuff, which is exactly what makes it really, really good in it’s own, very unique way.
And it is really hard to rate.
The good things about this series are 5-star material, hands down. Five-star writing that tickled my brain, had a firm, faithful grasp on complicated emotional states, did not ONCE sell complex, interesting and very intelligent characters short, made me sit on the edge of my seat because I really, REALLY didn’t know what would happen next, offered thoughtful commentary on universal issues like family, friendship, creative expression, sex, attachment, self-acceptance and love.
But first and foremost it let these characters become good friends of mine.
You know the kinds of friends – the ones that shared adolescence and your early 20s with you, the weirdness, the entanglements, the fart-jokes, the hangovers, the intensity of all-night parties, the numerous crises and alcohol-induced soul-baring. The ones where you realize years later that you will never be able to establish this special kind of intimacy with people again that sharing these formative years brings with it.
Tan takes every one of these characters seriously and refuses to let them down, to let even one of them become card-board-cutouts. This might be due to the fact that we get to follow them in minutiae-detail over 7 long books (or an 7-year-ongoing online-series), which allows Tan and us to delve in really deep.
There are so many pitfalls here, so many tropes and storylines that could easily take a turn to clichée-ville - the Closet Case, the Manic Depressive Diva, the Narcissistic, Irascible Father, the Bad Boss of the Record Company, the Big Man Crushing the Creative Soul, the Drugs, the Groupies, the Sex, the Rock’n Roll – and not ONCE, not EVER does Cecilia Tan fall into any of these clichés.
But what really is special – and precious – about this is that we get to grow up and change with Daron. We kind of experience everything twice. Let me explain:
The first books have simultaneously both a numb, restricted and a immediately painful quality to them. Tan captures Daron stuck in anxious, repetitive thought patterns, in firm grasp of his uncontrollable dysfunctional coping mechanism with his internalized homophobia and his emotional trauma. A very perceptive 1st person POV of somebody with an anxiety disorder.
This is why volume 1 feels stand-offish and very slow - it is a set-up for very satisfying interpersonal development later on.
Then in volume 2 &3 life shocks Daron out of his shell, brilliant and heartrending, and from volume 4 forward we get to come along while he relives these perilious first years from a safer, more settled ground, analyzing what really happened to him and why, realizing his own faults and responsibilities in hindsight – and because he is such a brilliantly drawn, intelligent, perceptive character the hard-earned conclusions he comes to during volume 4-7 are utterly satisfying. And always a work in progress.
Guys, so you get the impossible here: the fictional narration of realistic emotional growth - as glacial as it is in real life at times, with sudden spurts in the aftermath of times of crisis.
Which leads us to the not so good stuff about this series that would rate around 2,5 stars - and might be a dealbreaker for a lot of people who are not as spellbound as I by Daron's inner world.
Glacial really means glacial. Really.
While Daron's fascinating interpersonal relationships always drive the main story arc in the background, there are endless fillers of side-show events. Endless.
Some of them are good as well, fleshing out his world, giving his story and the story of his friends depth and width. Others feel completely needless and patronizing, like a purposeful draaaaaaaaaaagging-out to fill space until we can return to what we're all, obviously, interested in (as in Ziggy :-). Those I skimmed. Skimmed, skimmed, skimmed.
That's why I probably would have abandoned the series if I would have read it in 2 short weekly installments over the years.
But the book format suited me well and the pay off was - and continues to be - worth it. So Volume 8 is already pre-ordered (out in Nov) - and I suspect will offer another, slightly overdue, growth spurt on Daron's end.
Oh, and a side note: Most pivotal sex-scenes are fade-to-black in the books, but if you donate any amount on http://daron.ceciliatan.com/ Tan will send the explicit version to you. I loved them. You can feel that the scenes are not influenced by standard m/m sex-scene tropes and writing styles, that they are firmly rooted in Daron's well developed personality and emotional life and that Tan can write a good balance of gritty realistic and emotionally poignant, very much like her other erotica.
The writing is quite good, the plot reasonably believable and the locales well-described. The author does justice to the business of creating and performing music and provides a peek into the dark underbelly of the entertainment industry.
I finished this book in one sitting; I simply could not put it down. Volume Eight is due out in November 2015; I will buy it as soon as it's available.
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