A key player in the music industry finds himself ousted and forced to reconsider his place in the world.
Forty-something Montreal music executive Charles Barca was the innovator who founded the Internet music company PlayLouder, a platform that “changed the face of the industry forever.” But at the beginning of Pinto’s debut novel, the company’s moneymen and corporate overseers have exercised a buyout clause in PlayLouder’s bylaws to shut out Barca from the outfit he founded. Virtually overnight, Barca, who was once a “prince” in his industry, becomes, in his own words, “a bought-out, spit-over, disgraced and depressed prince, if that qualifies for royalty in your lexicon.” The action of the novel follows his initial flailing around and then his hardscrabble survivor’s efforts to reinvent himself. Former co-workers and industry players concoct several technologically ambitious schemes designed to create “perfect storm for musical capitalism,” but Barca, intent on re-evaluating his life and his priorities, isn’t sure he wants a job at all, much less one at the heart of the cutthroat music business he left behind (in some of the book’s best-realized scenes, he takes refuge in a hideaway in Rio de Janeiro). Pinto writes of this life crisis with salty diction but genuine insight; his Charles Barca is caustic, critical and more than a little egotistical, but he nevertheless comes across as the most honorable man in a book thickly populated with schemers, frauds and several mercilessly observed music-industry types. The author’s considerable narrative skills weave together a spot-on portrait of a mercenary business world with a moving account of one man’s internal upheaval, as he finds himself “terminally locked within the patterns of my own ridiculously predictable mind.” In a variety of exotic settings from Ipanema to Copacabana, Barca seeks “a Copernican revolution of the self,” and although the book’s conclusion leaves some crucial questions unresolved, readers will find the journey well worth it.
A surprisingly complex novel about music and self-evaluation.