Destroy All Monsters

Jeff Jackson. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $15 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-374-53766-1
Jackson (Mira Corpora) builds an anxious, deeply felt narrative probing a nationwide epidemic of murders of musicians. In opposing versions of the story—there’s an A side and a B side—Jackson follows several residents of the nondescript city of Arcadia who turn out to be both victims and perpetrators of crimes. Side A finds Xenie, disillusioned with music despite her “mesmerizing” singing voice, and Florian, an anxious yet defiant guitarist, both coping with the murder of Shaun, Xenie’s former boyfriend and Florian’s old best friend. When Florian’s bandmates decide to perform at a concert aimed at reviving the town’s dormant music scene, the opportunity to “pay a worthy and genuine tribute to Shaun,” who was gunned down while performing at a local theater, seems fitting. But as the concert approaches, bringing with it unwelcome reminders of the past, the characters are driven to confront their own twisted relationships to themselves and music itself. Side B switches Shaun and Xenie’s roles as the mourner and dead, and cycles through a dizzying catalogue of musician deaths across the country—gesturing at the murderers’ motivations, including the sense that, ironically, “the killers wanted music to matter again.” Infected with this eerie conceit, and expressed through gritty, sharp prose, the novel provides both deep character exploration and a nuanced commentary on music, creativity, and violence. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/13/2018
Release date: 10/16/2018
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