EDSON by Bill Morrissey


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A singer-songwriter of some renown, Morrissey displays all the strained seriousness of angst-ridden folkies in this lugubrious first novel about a down-on-his-luck performer who returns to his small-town roots in desolate Edson, New Hampshire. Writing and performing songs about the hardships of mill-town life is a lot better than actually living in such claustrophobic surroundings, as Henry Corvine discovers back in dead-end Edson, where most inhabitants eke out a living at the local shoe factory and unwind at the Polish Community Center. Thirty-seven and divorced, Henry (a man of great artistic integrity and negligible record sales) abandoned his career after the philistines who bought his record label insisted he produce a more commercial sound. Now, after a trip out to Alaska to raise some cash on a salmon boat, Henry finds himself a never-was among the folks in Edson. Except, that is, for Pope Johnson, the toast of the local music scene, who copped Henry's style and songs from his two obscure albums. When Caroline, Henry's twentysomething neighbor, discovers he's the real thing, this innocent Polish Catholic girl sets her sights on the hard-drinking, reticent older man. Hoping to clear his head, and decide his next move, Henry takes off for the mountains for some manly hunting but, being a sensitive guy, is satisfied with the certainty that he could have bagged an ornery bear. He also solves his present dilemma, another crisis of integrity: Should he co-write some songs with his old friend Tyler Beckett, now a hugely successful pop star, or should he take a job in Edson pumping gas? From the moment Henry restrings his old guitar, we know the answer--he'll compromise, though stay true to himself, of course. Henry's been-there/done-that righteousness is only slightly more annoying than Morrissey's folky syntax and glum authenticity: the cigarettes and coffee, the working-class heroes and barroom hustles.

Pub Date: April 11th, 1996
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Knopf