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Flesh Guitar [Mass Market Paperback]

Geoff Nicholson
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 29 2000
Guitar players change lives. Everybody knows that. Geoff Nicholson's deliriously funny Flesh Guitar is an overstimulated love letter to the guitar, complete with feedback, reverb, and special guest appearances, with a lead player the likes of whom has not been seen since Hendrix departed this earth.

Into the Havoc Bar and Grill, an end-of-the-world watering hole on the outer fringes of the metropolis, walks the entertainment, Jenny Slade. She has the look down: beat-up leather jacket, motorcycle boots, cheekbones, and wild hair. But she's no ordinary guitar heroine. Her guitar is like none her audience has ever seen, part deadly weapon, part creature from some alien lagoon. Is that hair? Are those nipples? Is it flesh? Where does Jenny Slade come from? Where does she go? Geoff Nicholson fans know that wherever that is, the ride will be like no other.

"The electric guitar is Nicholson's latest test case and he nails it. Flesh Guitar is brilliant and clever beyond your wildest dreams." --Newsday

"A blackly comic homage to Western culture's obsessive love affair with the electric guitar . . . always clever."--The New York Times Book Review

"[Flesh Guitar] should prove, once and for all, that Nicholson is incomparable."--Independent on Sunday

Product Details

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

British cult novelist Nicholson's talent for sheer verbal flash is on display in his sixth novel (Hunters and Gatherers, etc.) to appear in the U.S. The book is laid out like a CD, with the "cuts" being short takes on the life of one Jenny Slade, a legendary electric guitarist. We first glimpse Jenny coming into the Havoc Bar and Grill, where she pulls out a guitar that sprouts hair and appears to be made of some disturbingly human substance, and improvises music of "the sound of planets melting, of death factories imploding, of mythical beasts being slaughtered." Following her exit from the bar is the entrance of Bob Arnold, self-described number one Jenny Slade fan and obsessed editor/writer of the fanzine Journal of Sladean Studies. The book alternates between pieces in Bob Arnold's magazine; stories he tells the Havoc barmaid, Kate; and fragments where Jenny is set loose, like a tough, sexy guardian angel of rock 'n' roll history. She time-travels to give a teenage Frank Zappa some career advice, confronts Jimi Hendrix on the subject of sexism and even helps Kurt Cobain find the right words for his suicide note. The loose structure accommodates Nicholson's taste for parody and pastiche. There are send-ups of Moby Dick, Borges and Kafka, and witty takeoffs on emblematic rock phenomena. A running gag involves Jenny's on-again off-again partnership with composer Tom Scorn, who takes the performative aspects of music to disturbing new heights. Liberally sprinkled with esoteric references and subtext completely comprehensible only to rock 'n' roll cognoscenti, this is a clever montage rife with signature black humor and ultra-hip self-consciousness, further evidence of this writer's zany imagination.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Kirkus Reviews

The wildly inventive Nicholson (Bleeding London, 1997, etc.) exuberantly lives up to his reputation with this witty, ingenious fable about a rock-and-roll guitarist. Many writers have come to grief trying to create with words an approximation of music's content and texture. Nicholson wisely sidesteps the issue by concentrating instead on the impact of the young and mysterious Jenny Slade's music on her audiences. Jenny, bright (its rumored she studied at the Sorbonne, or Oxford), a loner, either bored or uninterested by most things not having to do with music, wants to be something other than a mere virtuoso. While she is, by all accounts, a phenomenally gifted guitarist, she's constantly driven to push the boundaries: much of what she creates (performed solo on guitar) sounds more like noise than melody. Yet it has a deep, unsettling, almost addictive effect on her audiences. Part of her ability to mesmerize may come from the peculiar guitar she travels with: its shaped vaguely like a human torso and seems, at the climax of her concerts, to bleed. While the story follows, ironically, the outlines of a quest narrative (with Jenny as a dedicated seeker, searching to unlock the riddles at ``the heart of the universe'' with her music), Nicholson can't resist embroidering the tale with some typically witty and idiosyncratic touches. There is, for instance, Jenny's near-lethal encounter with Freddie Terrano, the legendary one-armed guitarist. And sprinkled throughout are excerpts from articles in the Journal of Sladean Studies, devoted to explicating her life and art, and forming a wonderful parody of academic dissections of pop culture. Then there's the language: Nicholson's characters are invariably gifted with a line of bright, sardonic chat. Jenny's quest leads her eventually to a kind of revelation, and, in an end both droll and moving, to silence. A deft entertainment, bright, surprising, and, in its consideration of the impact of popular music on our imaginations, quite penetrating. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A Road To Nowhere Sept. 1 2002
By A. Ross
Format:Mass Market 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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A new twist on the guitar hero April 28 1999
By A Customer
Flesh guitar is an unusual book that really gets into the mind of the musician and the fan. It follows Jenny Slade (guitar goddess)through phases and stages of her life and career, as well as through time where she meets such people as Robert Johnson, Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain. Flesh guitar can be a bit overwhelming for people without music knowlege, but it does tend to explain itself if you keep reading it.
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1.0 out of 5 stars A big letdown Aug. 25 1999
By A Customer
As a fan of Nicholson, hands down, this is the weakest of his work. It's a surreal story set in a post-modern guitar rock fantasy world that goes nowhere. (Was he experimenting with a new style?) After all the brilliant plots, characters, and dialogue; this was a huge letdown.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Directionless and a bit pointless July 24 2000
This is indeed Nicholson's weakest book. A series of vignettes and anecdotes that taken individually would be fun, are presented in the place of a traditional narrative or even an overt message. These tales of the flesh guitar simply don't add up to much.
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5.0 out of 5 stars ...wildly inventive, my ass... April 29 1999
By A Customer
If you want to read a poorly written book with no plot and very little to no understanding of music or guitars or the creative process, Flesh Guitar is for you.
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