NOT FADE AWAY by Jim Dodge


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Here, Dodge (Fup) rattles off a rock-and-roll road novel in which a benzedrine-addled romantic sets off on a journey to the Big Bopper's grave, bearing an amorphous gift of love and music. Spanning the Beat era to the mid-60's, this foggy fable motors along on a high-speed blend of retro-rock talk and California slang, but it's a monotonous and aimless drive. Tow-truck operator George Gastin rescues an unnamed young farmer who has wrecked his car on a remote road in Sonoma County. Gastin gets the rainsoaked, fluwracked young man into dry clothes and launches into the tale of his youthful quest: It started when George was 20, living in S.F. at the height of the Beat era. He was a working-class beatnik intellectual, working a car-insurance scam with one Scumball for extra money. Then, on his 20th birthday, he discovered the meaning of music and love in a nightclub when a musician friend gave him an unforgettable solo, and blond Kacy stripped off her clothes and gave him free love. When the Beat scene ended, Kacy walked out and left him desolate, until Scumball asked him to wreck the white cadillac that an eccentric old lady had planned to send to the Big Bopper as a token of her love (the old lady died soon after the Bopper went down in the plane crash that also claimed Buddy Holly and Richie Valen). George set out on a benzedrine-fueled joy ride, planning to set the caddy ablaze at the Bopper's grave in Texas as a sacrament to love and music. In the midst of the ensuing trip across the heartland, George met an array of characters--from a bleak Arizona housewife who gave him her rock-and-roll collection to a rock-and-roll evangelist. Dream and reality began to blend for speed-addled George, and after he failed a mystical test in the snowy Iowa cornfield where the Bopper's plane went down, the caddy headed right into a fiery epiphany that might mean that old George is a ghost after all. Dodge puts heart and soul into his language and vision--but, with no dramatic tension or break from the drumming monotony of the speed dream, the reader's attention has faded away long before the book's final page.

Pub Date: Aug. 24th, 1987
ISBN: 0802135846
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly--dist. by Little, Brown