GRAPES FROM THORNBUSHES by Alissa Ordabai

GRAPES FROM THORNBUSHES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An up-and-coming rock musician worries about selling out in this satirical bildungsroman.

If Dante were alive today, surely one circle of his hell would look much like the London underground rock scene that Ordabai bitingly depicts. Joey Mormile, a 22-year-old guitarist from a struggling ’80s-revival, glam-rock band whose only desire is to express himself in song before stadiums full of shrieking fans. Unfortunately, he learns that rock ‘n’ roll is more about stylish posing than music. Joey can’t leave his apartment without spending an hour and a half doing his hair and decking himself in a fashionable brand of ripped jeans and T-shirt. At the clubs he frequents, life is a grim, zero-sum battle for status and attention, governed by an unbreachable code of disdainful diffidence–“never approach anyone first, always act like you don’t see or recognize the others, never smile at anyone, never let your guard drop.” Temptation beckons when Joey encounters a gorgeous art student with major-label connections (her high-concept exhibition features written descriptions of artworks that don’t exist), but success comes with compensating humiliations–music-industry execs want him not for his talent, but because he looks the part of a rock star. Rock journalist Ordabai knows this terrain well, and her panorama teems with sharply etched caricatures of its native fauna–parasitic band managers, unctuous fanzine editors, fading idols and the aging groupies who fight over them. It’s an easy milieu to lampoon, but the author also takes the creative impulses that drive it seriously. Joey is insecure, vain and deluded, but he also honors real talent and genuine feeling when he hears it in others (and finally, after much struggle, in his own music). While savaging the tawdry reality of small-time rock ‘n’ roll, Ordabai pays homage to the romantic dream at its heart.

A fresh, sharp, funny take on a showbiz staple.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-9559826-0-6
Program: Kirkus Indie
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