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GO NOW by Richard Hell


by Richard Hell

Pub Date: June 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-684-82234-2
Publisher: Scribner

A punk-rocker of modest renown and a self-styled poet, Hell debuts with a pointless and plotless fiction that lacks either the drug authenticity of a Burroughs or the transgressive aesthetic of an Acker. A junkie's journal, this clumsily written narrative relies on the thinnest of premises: A punk performer named Billy Mud, kept from recording by a record company dispute, is hired to travel cross-country and set down his impressions while his sometime girlfriend takes photos. Despite empty gestures toward literary predecessors (on Baudelaire: ``I identify with him a lot''), Hell, via Mud, mostly poses throughout as a super-studly anti-bourgeois rebel. Mud is so bored (he'd say ``full of ennui'') with his own story that he takes time to describe the physical dimensions of his notebook. And, of course, he describes the new wardrobe he needs if he's to blend in with the normals. Once on the road—no Kerouac he- -he wastes away in motel rooms, planning how to score sex or dope. Luckily, his girlfriend Chrissa is French, so he benefits from the cultural dissonance—i.e., she falls for his tired act. The too- coolly ironic Mud, a self-described ``outlaw,'' detoxes in Reno, but then decides to cop in Denver; he visits his hometown of Lexington, Kentucky, where he and Chrissa bunk with his aunt, whose dirty underwear he sniffs prior to seducing her. When Chrissa catches him with his mother's sister, she catches a plane home: project canceled. Throughout, Mud's stream-of-drug-consciousness writing is laughably incoherent; his observations on drugs equally silly (``Junk is like an orgasm stretched in time''); and his commentary on America revealing of his own limitations (``America feels boring''). As a social critic, Hell sounds more like Paul Simon than Patti Smith. As a writer? Let's just say that rock lyrics aren't poetry, and addled scribbling not a novel. (Author tour)