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A misanthropic rock star on the back end of his career discovers that touring the world’s backwaters isn’t much fun.

Caustic rocker-turned-writer Parker ill-advisedly revives Brian Porker, the semiautobiographical character featured in his story collection, Carp Fishing on Valium (2000). In reduced financial straits, the bile-filled yet compliant Porker undertakes a series of far-flung tours engineered by his ever-baffling manager Tarquin Steed, and a perplex of misadventures develops. In Sweden, Porker is hypnotized by Ba’hai cultists, who believe him to be the reincarnation of their prophet. In Tasmania, his soundman Carruthers purloins a rare wolf-dog, which becomes a prize coveted by a cabal of wealthy sybarites the touring party encounters in Iceland. These three nonsensical, lugubriously developed plot strands come together in a chaotic and pointless finale that returns the principals to the Tasmanian outback. It’s an agonizing odyssey, mainly because Porker isn’t very good company. Parker’s lyrical venom plays well in a three-minute song, but his fictional surrogate grows wearisome over the elongated course of the novel as he rails incessantly against religious zealots, record company toadies, punk bands, guitar and lighting technicians, stewardesses, in-flight bores, attorneys, and anyone else who rubs him the wrong way. The sour, generally humorless tone is only slightly dispelled by some overwrought but occasionally droll descriptions of Porker’s misbegotten gigs in the hinterlands, by Steed’s sleight-of-hand business ploys, and by Carruthers’s bizarre north-of-England patois. The lazily told tale is also marred by indolent editing mistakes sure to put off readers: Though set in 1983–84, there are anachronistic allusions to Sinead O’Connor, the Icelandic band the Sugar Cubes, the drug Ecstasy, and digital recording, all of which came to the fore in the ’90s.

As road trips go, nothing to write home about.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 1-56025-549-8
Page count: 272pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2003