Needle in the Groove Paperback – 1 May 2001
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we make music down there, all the week/and I have to say, away from the club, the band is even better/we make a noise like I've never known, just this one great stripped-raw channel of searching out/for the first time in years, I'm actually playing something/all the smalltown dregs of flair get magnified and yer know what, I can't help falling in love with the whole idea of being brilliant/to be myself at last, lost in the rhythmNeedle In The Groove, Jeff Noon's fifth novel, follows his short story collection Pixel Juice and confirms him as one of the most inventive and exciting of modern British writers. Set, like his previous books, in a slightly futuristic, reimagined Manchester (where, in this novel, streets are named after musicians and bands such as Joy Division, The Fall, 808 State and A Guy Called Gerald), the book follows Elliot Hill, a bass player and ex-junkie trudging the pub-rock circuit, who is invited to join a new band: fusing DJ artistry, voice and rhythm section, the group's hypnotic groove creation is augmented by a startling new recording technology. The band seems bound for success--until one of them vanishes. Elliot's subsequent search draws him into a secret history of music that stretches back 40 years and into his own past.
Noon's admitted affinity for music over literature as a source for inspiration takes concrete form here: the book takes the idea of the remix as it's formal--and thematic--principle. Where William Burroughs, in the 1950s and '60s, looked to collage--to formal innovation in the visual arts--as inspiration for his textual cut-ups, Noon's spur for rethinking modern prose is the revolution in music in the last two decades: the sample, the mix and the manipulation of sound provide the lexicon and grammar for his experiments with language. Although by no means the first to rethink writing in this way (Kodwo Eshun's "conceptual engineering" in More Brilliant than the Sun or Simon Reynolds' take on dance music in Energy Flash apply sonic invention and mixology to music criticism), Noon's use of musical techniques genuinely attempts to extend the possibilities of fiction. Love, desire, the metaphoric architecture of literature are all reimagined through his "liquid dub poetics": by taking near-clichés of fiction--the tensions between father and son, the (bizarre) love triangle--and subjecting them to the interference of linguistic experiment, Noon balances a compelling, straight narrative against the warped logic of the mix. It reads like a technologised, nervy version of Modernist stream of consciousness, punctuated by the backslash, that ubiquitous partitioner of URLs and familiar of Web-surfers everywhere. Pulp fiction meets dub? Just get into the groove. --Burhan Tufail --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Back Cover
A fictional trip through pop culture.
After years of playing bass in lousy two-bit bands, Elliot finally gets his big chance/he meets a singer, a dj and a drummer who seem to have everything/passion, talent, hypnotic songs and a whole new way of funky seduction/but just as their first dance record is climbing the charts, one of them disappears/Elliot's search for the missing musician becomes a wild, fiercely emotional trip into the dark soul of rhythm/and in the grooves he discovers a world where love is a ghost lost in the boom box/and the only remix that really matters is the remix of the heart.
If music were a drug, where would it take you?
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Top Customer Reviews
Story-wise it's a departure from his earlier works, seemingly moving away from the literary world(s) of the Vurt-verse, though there are moments within the narrative where I could see the conceptual connections between those earlier works and this one. It's a story about a band, about the music they make, and about how things go wrong when the rock and roll life is lived to excess. It's also a story about discovery and loss, and the plot had me hooked pretty much from start to finish.
As well as following the lives and adventures of the four main protagonists, the book also gives a potted history of the Manchester music scene, from skiffle through to modern techno and dance, and it's obvious from the way in which Noon tells this side of the story that he has a genuine passion for and love of music.
However, it's the way in which this novel is written that impressed me the most. Perhaps taking a touch of inspiration from music theory Noon has all but done away with punctuation and capitalisation here, breaking down the structure of every paragraph and sentence to short, beat-driven snippets of text more akin to song lyrics that prose. Throughout the book certain lines and paragraphs (verses?) are repeated, but in altered versions of their earlier selves. This is especially noticeable with the various remixes of the band's main hit, Scorched Out For Love, but it also appears more subtly in other places, offering up a sense of familiarity, of something half-remembered, almost like a dance tune heavy on samples might subtly remind you of the songs those samples are taken from.Read more ›
but what really killed me / drove me to distraction / time and again / was the reinvention of / punctuation / which eventually / stopped me reading / each stupid slash in the text / like the unwelcome burps / of a fat man in a lift / if you / know / what / I / mean.
For some reason Iain Banks got away with spelling everyfink rong in Feersum Endjinn, a sort of sci-fi Molesworth. Noon doesn't pull reinventing grammar off - it just annoys and distracts / eventually.
Perhaps the themes of the characters' relationships aren't new, but there's never any sense of familiarity to Noon's writing. If he has to be categorised it should be part of the underground of young dynamic writers emerging in the territory between Irvine Welsh and Neal Stephenson, collected together in 'Disco Biscuits' and 'Disco 2000' [ed. Sarah Champion].
At first it is not easy to follow this radical new literary concept, but once you have slipped into James Joyce [on acid] mode, you won't be able to put the book down. Indeed - the narrative encourages the reader to lose themselves in just the same way as if they were losing themselves to the groove of a DJ tunes in a club... You can see it in their eyes, and one can't help but feel sorry that unlike a DJ, Jeff Noon can't see his readers eyes.
The style of writing is clipped and condensed yet powerfully resonant. The plot similarly so. Both of which allow the reader to spend time savouring the milieu - Manchester music and all that fuels it (drugs, misery, love, ambition).
Ian McEwen it clearly ain't. This novel reads like it issues from a shady and undocumented part of the human psyche, and is packed with imagination as well as atmosphere... personally I suspect this is a bit of a classic.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I loved all of Jeff Noons work until this one. Alas I could not get into this like I could Pollen or Vurt etc. Read morePublished 13 months ago by I am probably a human
I loved this book and a great extension to the Nooniverse. As it is written almost as a dub / mix I found I had to read it in a certain way and by doing that got the best out of... Read morePublished on 12 Sept. 2013 by J. B. Blain
Vurt and Pollen and two of my most favourite books of all time so I had high expectation with the first of a pile of Noon books I had missed. Read morePublished on 2 Feb. 2008 by Kuma
A great book that explores drugs and modern music in Jeff Noons typically futuristic and ever changing Manchester. Dark and gritty, with alot of rain. Read morePublished on 26 Sept. 2004 by Nathan Pierce
Jeff Noon, as the initiated will know, is as much concerned with wordplay as he is a good plot. Fortunately, he manages to achieve both with a good degree of success in Needle In... Read morePublished on 15 Sept. 2004 by Matt
Noon has written a fine and adventurous book. A book about father's and sons, reality and illusion and (of course) sex and drugs and rock and roll. Read morePublished on 11 Jun. 2003 by J. Skade
This is a good story, well written. Noon uses language like no one else - this book is seriously lacking in punctuation and grammar, yet you always understand what's going on. Read morePublished on 4 Dec. 2001 by Stuart Whitby
I haven't read Noon's other books, but I got this because I was looking for something daring and inventive in contemporary fiction. I was quite disappointed. Read morePublished on 27 July 2001
A hypnotic book. Don't compare it to Vurt, accept that authors move on and that's even more exciting. You get lost in this the same way you do in music. Read morePublished on 4 May 2001