A broke, burned-out rock guitarist and aspiring writer runs with his tribe in post-grunge Florida.
If Joyce was right that you could rebuild Dublin by reading Ulysses, you could definitely reconstruct a very specific American village of dive bars, record shops and drugstore cowboys from this slab of post-punk tragicomedy, the second novel by creative writing teacher/drummer Costello (The Enchanters vs. Sprawlburg Springs, 2006). The novel traces the emotional arc (or lack thereof) of superslacker Ronnie Altamont, the lead singer and guitarist in his low-rent Florida rock band, The Laraflynnboyles. Set in the mid-1990s, the story captures in intimate detail the wilderness years experienced by many American males of a certain class, age and background. The desolate outlooks of Ronnie and his buddies are weighed down by crap jobs (asbestos removal, pizza delivery, etc.), fueled by the massive and constant intake of drugs and alcohol, and soothed only by the likes of Charles Bukowski, Lou Reed, The Kinks and The Replacements. Fleeing the ersatz utopia that is Orlando, Ronnie settles in the titular town to finish his 536-page novel, The Big Blast of Youth, and bang heads with guys carrying names like “Boogie Dave.” If there’s anyone to truly feel sorry for, it’s the girls that Ronnie orbits. These pierced, tattooed and dyed goddesses have names like “Maux” and “Portland Patty” and put up with being dubbed “nnnugget” for their inherent hotness. For these girls, the worst revelation they come to about these long-haired boys with their shiny guitars is that at the end of the day, they’re all pretty much losers. It’s a big, messy, uncomfortable story but one that captures its milieu. The final third of the book is marked by a six-week relationship during which Ronnie teeters on the verge of being saved. But in the end, the book’s real question is whether this beautiful loser is capable of being saved from himself.
A rock-and-roll fable about the secret lives of the unsatisfied.