The Red Album of Asbury Park captures the late 60's of Asbury, New Jersey, and its music scene. This was a time when the town was resonating with a "rock and roll" energy (the same time that then-unknown/up-and-coming musicians like The Boss were just getting started). There is a nice, melancholy mood and tension throughout the book, which features a style of prose writing that's original and smooth-flowing. The characters were introduced, and/or entered the scene(s) very naturally and at a good pace as well. I found the lead character, the 22-year-old musician Sam Nesbitt, to be introspective, pensive, and philosophical (with a snarky sense of humor at points - this conversation is an example):
"Hey, rob a liquor store on a Friday night. Do what you have to do to get the money," I said, mindlessly repeating Sal's advice.
"Sam," said Julie, slapping me on the arm.
"What? I didn't say a bank."
"You're a role model."
No, Julie, no role model, I insisted.
(along with this narrative - the introspective/philosophical aspect):
Still, I could not sleep. At 3 a.m., I would sit up in bed with my guitar in my lap, picking out fragments of songs that remained just beyond reach. I was looking for the key, the secret elixir that would transform the sincere and competent into anthems of love, heartache and revolution.
There are many details the author did not overlook. Some of the lines that I thought were very descriptive/evocative:
Mannequins posed in the darkness behind the plateglass windows, elegant in their winter clothes, their features only visible when they seemed to turn their heads to the lights of a passing car, and unoffended at the inattention.
I never told her to stay away; she read it in my eyes, that resentment that I hardly admitted to myself: that her presence took me away from the band, the music, the audience.
"Peace," said Jillian, rising.
"Peace," said Julie.
We both stared after Jillian as she picked up her order and danced out the door. A guy walked into the restaurant carrying a girl, her legs wrapped around his waist from the front and laughing like there was no tomorrow. As Janis Joplin said, "It's all one day."
I thought the dialogs were tight/sharp (nothing worse than superfluous dialog!!) - in the sense that the sometimes *seemingly* meandering conversations _are_ that way for a reason (to this reader, at least) - they capture the ambiguity and tension(s) of a new romance/the mood of the interactions in the (potential) pre-relationship stage.
And always, the lead character's drive/dream of becoming a famous rock star (and the story takes place in New Jersey; NJ natives include Bruce Springsteen, Frank Sinatra, Bon Jovi, Lauryn Hill, Dionne Warwick - talk about pressure).........hangs over him, doggedly. One can't help but feel for the character, in the sense of his despondency/anxiety about being a struggling, young musician (something every artist can relate to!) in the city. But despite the harshness of reality, it doesn't all end in morose catastrophe. I especially liked a certain caption on pg-12. It's sort of a golden thread that runs through the book - which was nice, I don't always enjoy leaving a (humanistic) book on a depressing note!