40 WATTS FROM NOWHERE

Sue Carpenter, Author
Sue Carpenter, Author . Scribner $23 (240p) ISBN 978-0-7432-2988-3
Reviewed on: 11/10/2003
Release date: 02/01/2004
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-1-4165-6960-2
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Carpenter has penned an endearing if flawed memoir about running a pirate radio station out of her Los Angeles apartment for three years and meeting all sorts of oddballs, rock stars and wanna-bes while staying one step ahead (well, most of the time) of the FCC. Her characters are right out of central casting: she describes herself as "a motorcycle-riding blonde with a bunch of leather in her closet"; her ne'er-do-well musician boyfriend as someone who has "an affection for needles"; and her tech-support guy as a likable slob with awkward social skills. The oddballs mostly come across as standard-issue L.A. airheads, and Carpenter's wooden ear for dialogue ensures they stay one-dimensional. But her frank, often funny narrative is easily absorbed, and the story's a good one: one woman quitting a humdrum receptionist job to flout the law by filling the airwaves with the indie rock she loves, music she believes the monolithic Clear Channels of the world aren't playing. While most of the bands from the book's mid-1990s setting are no more than funny names that never made it out of the local clubs, there are also cameos from several big (or soon to be big) acts, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane's Addiction and Beck. With the station inevitably shuttered in 1998 by the FCC, one wishes Carpenter had gotten the book done a bit sooner for full cutting-edge effect. (Feb.)

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