First novel by the 21-year-old Goebel, former lead singer of the punk band The Mullets: a tale of five oddballs who form a rock band in small-town Kentucky:
Watch them make heads turn: the wild-eyed young black man (Luster); the smoking hot blonde in the wheelchair (Aurora); the feisty octogenarian in the cowboy boots (Opal); the hellraising third-grader Opal baby-sits (Ember); and an effeminate Iraqi (Ray). These are the eponymous Anomalies, who’ve come together under Luster’s direction to play “power-pop new wave heavy metal punk rock.” The players are introduced awkwardly, by multiple narrators in writing that stumbles from social realism to cartoonish whimsy. Thus protagonist Luster is both an industrious commissary runner at a dog-racing track and a lonely Mr. Clean in a family of drug-dealers (12 brothers, all called Jerome). What becomes clear soon enough is that this messy debut is the latest report from the front in America’s never-ending cultural clash between the Hip and the Square, between free spirits and those whom Luster contemptuously dismisses as “humanoids.” Unfortunately, Goebel’s formulation is tired (the humanoids “are all hooked up to the same giant mechanical brain”) and the battle lines not sharply drawn. We are left with a buzz of angry voices. Aurora is so angry with the predatory guys who keep hitting on her that she takes refuge in a wheelchair, though there is nothing wrong with her; Opal is angry with her nieces and her therapist; Luster and Ember are angry with just about everybody. Four angry band members, all fired up with nowhere to go. The exception is Ray, a gentle soul who has drifted over from Vonnegut country. His quixotic mission is to find and apologize to the GI he wounded in the Gulf War. He succeeds, but the unintended consequence is that the band’s one and only gig descends into bloody mayhem.
Dispensing with plot, Goebel wings it, credibility take the hindmost. It doesn’t work.