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MARK DAWSON
The Art of Falling Apart


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Macmillan, London, 2001
(price: 10.00; 296 pages)

dedication: To Mette


The blurb on the back:

Dystopia have burned up the European charts and now they're going to crack America. Their Vegas gig sold out in minutes, they're wall-to-wall on MTV and, best of all, the US Senate has condemned them.
But they're also self-destructing: Vid's addicted to drugs - all kinds of them. Spin just can't help having 'accidents' with hookers ... Jared thinks he's going slowly mad ... and Alex, the band's manager, is planning to betray them all.
Well - that's showbiz. But it's only when one of them dies that things really start to get messy...


opening lines:
Jared stirs as the mechanical rumble of the unfolding undercarriage resonates with the bulkhead that he is leaning against. His cheek is creased from sleeping against the lining of the complimentary pillow and his limbs are rigid, his quadriceps cramped despite the generous acreage in First Class.


This one's dangerously modern by the standards of this site, but I did always promise myself that rock & roll novels would be included regardless of publication date, and indeed regardless of quality.

Not that this is particularly awful. It's just dull in a way that's typical of so much of the modern fiction industry that's driven by big London publishers. You'll see from the opening lines quoted above, for example, that it's written in the present tense, which is so often an irritating affectation and a distraction. And then there's that terrible, sloppy habit inherited from 1980s sex & shopping novels of listing things instead of describing them. Here's the scene at a dinner party:

A fat brown turkey, skinned and basted, sits at one end of the table on a silver platter. At the opposite end of the table is a hunk of venison, sitting in a deep tray with its juices soaking back into it. The path between these two offerings is lined with a selection of starters: Sydney rock oysters on the half shell with fresh lime wedges; kangaroo swaggies with Illaware plum sauce; spinach and pinenut tartlets; curried vegetable puffs with coriander chutney. There are dishes of potatoes, some mashed with mature cheddar, some roasted, some boiled with parsley. There is sweet-potato pudding and cranberry consommé. There are sprouts, carrots with melted butter, bowls of shelled peas and cauliflower, and china jugs full of gravy. A separate platter holds the vegetarian options: spanakopita, eggplant casserole, ricotta dumplings with asparagus. (p.197)

Bear in mind that I'm saving you from the sweet trolley, which would otherwise double the length of the passage. Frankly, this isn't writing. It is, however, what passes for observation in the degenerate world of modern fiction and it's rubbish. (or maybe I'm being unnecessarily unkind, and in 30 years time this is going to be excellent source material.)

Apart from these standard flaws, it's not a bad first novel, just very unexceptional. Mark Dawson used to play records at the Hacienda before becoming a media lawyer and the best bits are related to those two strands: a DJ who starts playing in a Camden Town goth club, and a management company putting together a new package to extricate the singer from his band. Other than that, we've got ourselves yet another off-the-shelf tale of rock & roll excess. Perfectly competent stuff, but really what's the point? Read Mötley Crüe's The Dirt and you'll find much more entertaining stories that have the added benefit of purporting to be true. All the novel can boast as an addition is a crime fiction element and that doesn't add up to a great deal.

And for those hoping that the Soft Cell title might promise some soiled glamour: sorry, there's none going on here.


Mark Dawson


ARTISTIC MERIT: 2/5
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE:
2/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT:
1/5


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