Ghost Notes

Art Edwards

Defunct Press, 2007

212 pages, Fiction

5 out of 5 stars

Every once in awhile you come across something that’s a pleasure to read. The story isn’t so important – you’re not necessarily attached to the plot. It’s about prose that oozes with subtext. Imperfect characters you can relate to. Witty little metaphors that make you smile. Words flowing naturally, falling right into place. They fit right in there. A book that is not so much about itself than it is about you. Books by Kurt Vonnegut, J.G. Ballard and the early writing of Chuck Palahniuk immediately come to mind. Art Edwards may one day join such company.

I liked Ghost Notes before I reached the end of the first page and when I finished I knew it was a book I’d revisit some day. Some books get set aside and forgotten, stuffed in the back of a cabinet, sold used on amazon, even recycled. Then there are books that occupy a place of prominence on your bookshelf: Fight Club, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Godfather, Lord of the Rings. These are books I’ve read more than once and will probably read again. I think I may even have multiple copies of a few of them. I know that, for some reason, I definitely ended up owning two copies of The Godfather and I can swear I saw an extra copy of Fight Club lying around here somewhere. Will Ghost Notes be so revered? Let’s be realistic, probably not. But it was one of those books that was just fun to read, and one that I will probably read again.

Ghost Notes is set in the mid-1990’s. Right on the money.  When grunge was king and musicians in thrift-store clothes sang pure, powerful, melancholy songs like Black Hole Sun, Down in a Hole and My Name is Mud. It’s about a guy named Hote, who quits his band in the middle of a tour and then lingers nearby contemplating his purpose, reliving his past, and meeting interesting characters like the confident, wannabe teenage punk-rock goddess Pippy Longstocking aka “Betty”. The story is filled with rock and roll minutia and Edwards is clearly an experienced musician. It felt like we shared similar musical experiences, like we both once lived in the same world Hote occupies as he struggles to find his place. I was in my early 20’s during the grunge era, in college, playing rock guitar in bands with names like The Juice Crew, Waiting for Gina and Better Than Better Than Ezra. I thought I was cool.

Nowadays it’s Kelly Clarkson, Demi Lovato and the Black Eyed Peas. Rock is dead they say.

If you don’t have a similar background, don’t possess a passion for pure rock music, didn’t push to the front of the crowd at House of Blues to see Primus up close, or walk back to your car disappointed after witnessing how much Smashing Pumpkins sucks live, or lost your friends (and your ride home) during a Beastie Boys concert, then you probably won’t love Ghost Notes as much as I did. But for all you power-chord players out there, all you Zepp-heads, everyone of you who was awestruck while touring the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, even the folks who wondered where all these passionate Nirvana fans were before the guy shot himself, you need to dedicate a few days to Ghost Notes.

But don’t be misled: this is not a book about rock music. It’s a book about people and Edwards has mastered their lives in a way that will make even the most unfortunate country music fan appreciate his work. He’s good with his words. It’s hard to describe what music sounds like, but Edwards does it beautifully:

His guitar tone was loud – like Cobain’s and a million others – but also clean, like someone had broken into the Beach Boys’ practice room and turned their amps up when they weren’t looking.

 

With elements of minimalism driving the story, like Palahniuk, Edwards’ scenes unfold with just enough to let our imaginations run wild, and we love him for it. An encounter with Goo, with his green Mohawk, his jaw crunching ice from a foam cup as he cultivates his boredom, gives us all we need to know about the guy while giving us hardly anything at all. We know these people. We’re right there with them.

Not every character seems necessary and the use of first person, for every character, was a little confusing at first. But his delicate writing works quite well. It’s natural. Each word fits almost perfectly into place. And while we celebrate rock, we also look at ourselves. Where we’ve been. Why we’ve been. And what’s next? There is real feeling here, as if this book has some cosmic purpose.

Like Jimmy Page’s ripping, ice-cold guitar solo in the middle of Whole Lotta Love (the greatest 16 seconds in the history of rock and roll) Ghost Notes called me home.

Long live rock!

Ghost Notes is available here (amazon) or from his site. It is also available as an audio book read by James Lorenz. Listen to a few sample tracks, it’s pretty cool. Check out Art’s website here.

Reviewed by Mark McGinty, January 2010

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6 Responses to Ghost Notes

  1. Art Edwards says:

    Wow. Happy new year to me!

    Mark, a public thank you for taking the time to review self-published work, and not just my own.

    I was just wrapping up a holiday sale at my website, but because of Mark’s review I’ve decided to extend it for a while.

    Right now, you can get Ghost Notes at my website for a measly five bucks! If you’d like to try a self-published book for not a lot of money, here’s your chance.

    http://www.artedwards.com/

    And the prequel to Ghost Notes, Stuck Outside of Phoenix, is also available there for five bucks! More rock lit, less coin.

    http://www.artedwards.com/

    I’m currently working on the sequel to Ghost Notes, which is called Good Night to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Era, and I will (New Year’s resolution) finish it in 2010. You can keep tabs on me at my blog, where topics range from Marcel Proust to Judas Priest and everything in between.

    http://artedwards-layindownthelaw.blogspot.com/

    Good luck to all of my fellow self-published writers. (I’ve published two, my first in 2003.) May 2010 bring you a Boogle review!

    Art

  2. mmcginty says:

    For $5 I had to support the cause and just bought Stuck Outside of Phoenix…

  3. Brent says:

    Stuck Outside of Phoenix and Ghost Notes are great books. The books have interesting characters and a good stories. I really enjoyed reading them.

    Plus, Mr. Edwards recorded a 10-song CD of orginals called Songs From Memory. The song “Riverboat Captain” was written into Ghost Notes and used as the “single” for the novel. The CD is available for a listent and $5.00 purchase on ww.artedwards.com.

    http://www.artedwards.com/songsfrommemory.htm

    Thanks,
    Brent
    NOSTONEMUSIC
    http://www.myspace.com/nostone

  4. Art Edwards says:

    Thanks, Brent.

    A slight correction: Ghost Notes the Audio Book was actually read by voice artist extraordinaire James Lorenz. James resides online at:

    http://www.jameslorenz.com/

  5. mmcginty says:

    Fixed it… 😉

  6. We this online, many thanks producing this, this just what My spouse and i became regarding!

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