Vexation Lullaby, Justin Tussing

Wonderful surprise; a rock-n-roll novel that feels true and real while transcending its setting and subject to reveal real thought and humanity, rising beyond the stereotypes and neuroses.

As much as I enjoyed the dissolute rock-star Jimmy Cross – skillfully complexified by Tussing – and the protagonist Peter Silver, it is the exploration of obsessive fan Arthur Pennyman (‘Everyman’?) which jolts this out of genre, as he gains a love interest and a life. Or perhaps it is really the women – Arthur’s Rosslyn, Peter’s Maya and Jimmy’s Judith – who humanize the men and the novel. In any case, it is the relationships and dynamics that surprise and reward here, not the drunken debauchery, which comes across mostly as habit and self-medication rather than joyful or even truly sordid.

A human and humane story set in a milieu not typically known for either, spun out with a sure hand, even down to Pennyman’s obsession with footnoting.

(Footnote – I look forward to checking out ‘The Best People in the World’ Tussing’s earlier novel, which is listed as winner of a Ken Kesey Award)

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