Childs adds a fictional narrator, a philosophical folk rock doppelganger
who assesses the moves of the declining couple as his own life spins out of
control, in mordant comparison to Dante’s Inferno and Virgil’s Descent. I have
to admit that I found this part of the book a little distracting, and a mash-up
of perhaps more personal creative writing with a remarkably solid analysis of
the Thompson’s output ends up feeling too ambitious. (Childs is similar to
conceptually extrapolative Camden Joy, but gives a lot more of the archetypal
solid rock write trivia and insight.) Fortunately, this interwoven subplot is
pulled off enough not to ruin the spot-on observations and criticisms that fuel
the rest of the book. It shouldn’t keep you from reading it, and you should buy
the album Shoot Out The Lights immediately if you haven’t got it.
I have to point out that I don't mind this ambiguity some reviewers feel about the fiction in my story. I knew it would be offputting for some, but it serves the primary thesis ("Shoot Out The Lights is a song-cycle about living in Hell") by giving readers a narrator and arc to mirror the story of the Thompsons, plus it allowed me to revel in certain flavors of darkness that are, happily, not a part of my own life. I suppose one of the common threads in the cricitism is that the story and analysis could have been better integrated. Maybe so, but I should state that the back-and-forth between reality and fiction was intentional and meant to be somewhat comic (the fact that I am explaining this is a sign that maybe I failed at that). I meant Virgil's perpetual confusion and misery and sad-sackist intellectualism to lead him to jumble his honest reflections of the album Shoot Out The Lights with his own position as a fan, an outside observer, and the ultimately flawed guide to the album. He's less a poet from a bygone day than the creepy loner who narrates many of Richard Thompson's songs. But the fact that I am explaining this is another sign of failure. Therefore, by the logic of this paragraph, I can live with failure. QED.
In other news: PEOPLE OF LOS ANGELES! I'm reading with Kim "In The Aeroplane Over the Sea" Cooper and David "Swordfishtrombones" Cooper at Metropolis Books on August 30th at 6 pm! You will notice that all three albums under discussion have the distinct scent of nostalgia for an impossible past. What could be more fun than talking about that?
PLUS, if you have yet to do so, GET ON THE BUS. The "Crawling Down Cahuenga" Tom Waits tour bus, that is. If there's still availability, you owe it to yourself.