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A skillfully written book that just didn't land an emotional punch
on May 16, 2015
I REALLY wanted to love this story. I thought I would. Typically, any book that involves the music biz with its myriad characters that come in every shade and style of humanity completely engrosses me. I love the irreverence, the wild ride of rock & roll mixed with the roller coaster that is life in the city, life growing up, life in the push and pull of families; heartache, mental illness, etc., so this should've knocked my socks off. I wanted it to, but it didn't.
Maybe it was my state of mind, I don't know, but there was not one emotional punch that landed with me. The characters were cleverly constructed, with lots of smart dialogue and angst-ridden plot points, but I was not moved by a one. And, frankly, even after repeatedly checking the book description to remind myself of who characters were and what they were supposed to be doing, their outlines somehow kept disappearing in the meandering narrative. I couldn't keep them straight, and their vignettes and individual chapters (often with bouncing time-lines and seemingly little connection) were indistinct and, for me, ultimately forgettable.
At times I felt the writer was working too hard to be clever: the Power Point display towards the top of the third act (or maybe the third of four acts?) was likely meant to convey some sort of meaning, but on an e-reader it was illegible and though a weblink was offered, even that suggestion was emblematic of the problem: the device took me out of the story; it was pages and pages and pages, and had I actually left my book to go look at this on a website, I'd've LITERALLY been taken out of the story! As it was, I skipped ahead, just wanting to grab onto some thread that kept me as connected as possible to the difficult-to-follow narrative.
For me it never got there. There were some interesting, well written sections, but it wasn't cohesive enough to really impel this reader forward to find out what was going to happen. I did get to the end...and then...it was over. That was about it. It left no mark.
All art is subjective, I understand that, and clearly this is a case where my perspective is somewhat out-of-sync: Egan has won enough awards for this book, including the Pulitzer Prize, to make clear that whatever has eluded me was less of a problem for others! So be it. She is a skilled writer, with a mastery of language, and this may just be one piece of her work that did not resonate. Perhaps another of her books will.