Boy Island

Camden Joy, Author Quill $12 (240p) ISBN 978-0-688-17033-2
Riffing on rock 'n' roll and the Gulf War, Joy (The Last Rock Star Book) again proves himself a sharp observer of the contemporary scene, mixing up real-life personages with fictional characters in his second free-wheeling novel. The narrative follows four musicians from California to Maryland as the newly formed David Lowery Band tours the country. Lowery, former lead singer of the (real-life) defunct group Camper Van Beethoven, hopes to relive his glory days; his longtime friend, guitarist Johnny Hickman, dreams of living up to Lowery; experienced bassist Pete Sosdring wants to regain his lost youth. Only quiet young drummer Camden Joy has no clear idea why he has joined the band, and his introverted nature quickly makes him an outcast. Listening to the radio for news of the war and watching the countryside fly by, the band members pontificate on the current state of rock and roll: ""[I]t'd reverted into mere entertainment, escapism, caricature, stereotype, the saddest sort of travesty, flash and noise and nothing nourishing, no substance."" But not all is serious contemplation. In a game they invent called ""tonnage,"" the band tallies the total weight of the women each player sleeps with. Lowery gets the prettiest girls, Hickman is jealous and Sosdring, although married, gives them all a run for their money. Consistently in last place is the ever-more withdrawn Joy, who is wrestling with a growing realization of his own homosexuality. Oddly, when the tour has ended, it is only Joy who is redeemed by the journey, leaving the other three to continue their quests. Energetically, if at times sloppily, Joy splashes the band's cross-country odyssey across the landscape of a nation at war and a musical culture in flux. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/28/2000
Release date: 03/01/2000
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