WHALE MUSIC by Paul Quarrington


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Canadian author Quarrington, whose King Leary (not reviewed) won the Stephen Leacock Award for humor writing in 1988, romps down the well-worn path of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. Protagonist Desmond Howell was once a rock superstar, but when the novel opens, he's a 300-pound recluse in his California home, his brain scrambled through drug abuse, his soul hurting from personal betrayals and the (suicidal?) death of his costar brother Danny. But all is not lost: there's a beautiful naked woman on his living-room sofa who ""groupie-wise. . .was scraping the bottom of the barrel""; she identifies herself as Claire from Toronto (a place Des believes is in another galaxy). And while Des may have trouble identifying himself, his surroundings, and the people around him, he's still a musician (jumping up to record the polyrhythms of a bubbling percolator, working at his relationship with a monstrous Yamaha synthesizer that snarls even when unplugged), obsessed with composing a major opus inspired by the songs of whales. Des must sometimes use applied logic and the process of elimination just to figure out what's going on around him, but his memories are vivid: his obnoxious huckster father (a frustrated composer); his seductive mother (also named Claire); his faithless wife; various music-business weirdos; a guru named Babboo Nass Fazoo; encounters with Elvis, the Beatles, Bill Haley, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Quarrington's deft touch and wry charm make the drugged-out slob protagonist surprisingly appealing; while much of the material seems familiar, he manages to sound some fresh notes.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Doubleday