A Road To Nowhere,
This review is from: Flesh Guitar (Paperback)
Definitely the weakest of the three Nicholson books I've read (the other two being Bleeding London and Still Life With Volkswagen), this novel haphazardly follows the career of Jenny Slade, an avant-garde female guitar player. Other readers have criticized it's lack of narrative framework or traditional plot, but I think it adheres fairly closely to the traditional "quest for knowledge" structure. The problem is that the various incidents and episodes fail to add up to the larger knowledge or truth that is implicit in such a structure.
Over the course of the book, Jenny appears as a vision and converses with various guitar gods right before they die, including Robert Johnson, Jimi Hendrix, and Kurt Cobain, and also dispenses advice to a young Frank Zappa. Intermingled are her encounters with fictional musicians, the most captivating of which is the one-armed Freddie Terrano and his band of worshipers. Intermingled are excerpts from the "Journal of Sladean Studies", an uber-fanzine written by her favorite fan. Ultimately, it's a surreal hodgepodge that is intermittently entertaining, but kind of meanders to nowhere. In that sense, I think Nicholson is rather like Jonathan Lethem, who is also capable of great writing and wild ideas, some of which are genius, and some of which flop. For Nicholson, this is a flop.