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Anything Goes

Madison Smartt Bell

97 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0375421254 / ISBN 13: 9780375421259
Published by Pantheon, New York, 2002
Condition: Fine Hardcover
From Clayton Fine Books (Shepherdstown, WV, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

Fine in dust jacket. Signed by Bell on the title-page. Bookseller Inventory # b22705

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Anything Goes

Publisher: Pantheon, New York

Publication Date: 2002

Binding: Hard Cover

Book Condition:Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Fine

Signed: Signed by Author

Edition: First Edition.

About this title

Synopsis:

The only taste of life Jesse has known in his twenty years is bitter: his mother disappeared before he could talk, his father never got over being left, and Jesse’s presence seems only to kindle his father’s anger. Jesse’s talent is for music, which has given him a livelihood and a home as a bass player in a bar band called Anything Goes. Band life offers the opportunity for the dregs of experience (hangovers, mildewed hotel rooms), and the antics of his band mates (all of them older than he is; some of them wiser, some not) offer more schooling in hard knocks.

Anything Goes tells Jesse’s story over the course of a year, during which he finds his life slowly being tempered by the unexpected: by a dad who wants to make up and be part of Jesse’s life; by a female lead singer who suddenly makes the band sound a lot better than they have any right to be; and by the confidence Jesse begins to feel in his own musical talent.

A complete departure from the sweeping historical vision of Madison Smartt Bell’s Haitian novels and the gritty cynicism of his intense urban dramas, Anything Goes confirms Bell as one of the most versatile, most gifted, most surprising novelists of his generation.

Review:

In Anything Goes, Madison Smartt Bell's 13th work of fiction, the author follows a Tennessee country/rock cover band as it plays dives up and down the Eastern seaboard. The main character, Jesse, capitalizes on a new lead singer's abilities and the shuffling of band personnel by slipping in his original numbers (and those of the former lead guitarist), much to the crowds' delight.

Bell provides us with a strong sense of who Jesse is: a twentysomething kid of mixed race, drinking and carousing on tour and trying to cope with a once-abusive father who reappears to attempt reconciliation. Other characters, unfortunately, drift in and out, and interesting band members are left half-developed. He does, however, capture the excitement of a band when it clicks, of the adrenaline rush stemming from the audience, and of the delight in finding music for words. After Jesse and the new lead singer, Estelle (depicted as a Dolly Partonesque rural beauty/singer), have a flirtatious encounter, Jesse thinks: "Lover was the word in my mind; I had known lots of girls, women, but hadn't called them that. Or maybe it was something else in Estelle's smile. It was like we had a pleasant secret between us--except she knew what it was and I didn't." The secret, however, is not well disguised; its revelation comes as no surprise. Even Bell's longtime readers may be disappointed by the unevenness of Anything Goes. --Michael Ferch

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