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Whale Music [Paperback]

Paul Quarrington
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 20 1997
Des Howell is a former rock 'n' roll star who never leaves his secluded oceanfront mansion. Naked, rich and fabulously deranged, he subsists on a steady diet of whiskey, pharmaceuticals and jelly doughnuts and occasionally works on his masterpiece, "Whale Music." One day, upon awakening from his usual drunken stupor, Des discovers on his sofa a young alien from the faraway universe of Toronto. This girl has made the trek to Des' hideaway because she believes in the "Whale Music" and she's crazy enough to think that Des can make a comeback hit with his mad magnum opus--

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Product Description

From Amazon

Paul Quarrington's humorous, frenetic novel Whale Music follows the life of a musician, Des Howell, loosely based on reclusive Beach Boys mastermind Brian Wilson. Long retired from the Howl Brothers, the superstar rock duo he formed with his late brother, Danny, in the 1960s, Des lives in a secluded seaside mansion in southern California. Almost immovably fat and overly fond of jelly-filled doughnuts (a little like Ignatius O'Reilly, the eccentric at the heart of A Confederacy of Dunces), Des has removed himself from the world at large and can afford to spend his time working on a long, non-commercial magnum opus called Whale Music.

Des is a victim of the '60s: due to massive overdoses of drugs and alcohol, he has lost much of his short-term memory and functions (or doesn't function) much of the time in a semi-hallucinatory state. He makes his music, has strange visitors from the past and present, and is eventually drawn out of his seclusion to pursue his new girlfriend, Claire, to a strange planet called Toronto. Quarrington delivers a fast-paced, zany read, well grounded in the details of the '60s music scene (Quarrington himself spent most of the '70s as a rock bassist in bands such as Joe Hall and the Continental Drift). After winning the Governor General's Award for fiction in 1990, the novel inspired first a mythical soundtrack album to the book, Whale Music, by the Rheostatics, and then a feature film, Whale Music. --Mark Frutkin

From Publishers Weekly

This nimble portrait of a rock 'n' roll legend turned Beverly Hills eccentric will amuse anyone who's followed the misfortunes of real-life ex-superstars. Ludicrously obese, plagued by tinnitus and suffering from apparent short-term memory loss, Desmond Howell (of the famed '60s Howl Brothers) is unlikely to make a comeback anytime soon. In semi-permanent mourning over the death of his brother Danny, he contents himself with puttering around his mansion, locking the doors (except when he forgets) against pushy psychologists, fans, ex-bandmates and relatives. Stephen Leacock award-winning humorist Quarrington's ( King Leary ) prose is fleet throughout, tracing the Howl Brothers from their origins as a Southern California teenage garage band through their glory days (where Elvis, the Beatles and Bill Haley make cameo appearances) to Desmond's current state of proud dissipation. The result is a tasty brew of rumors and modern myths from the rock era, with a flavor all its own.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Literary, but fun Aug. 18 2009
Format:Paperback
You might say that winning the Governor General's Award is enough to recommend "Whale Music," but when books win awards like this it makes people think of them as dry and somehow... literary. This book is "literary," but it is also compellingly readable, delightfully entertaining, the kind of book you spill coffee on in the morning because you can't wait to get back to it. It has a sense of humour as well as a sense of a deeper meaning--as in other Quarrington novels, each one requires the other.

The story takes place in the California mansion of the "Whale Man:" Des Howell, former member of the "Howell Brothers," one half of which team has recently died. Des is having a hard time adjusting to his brother's death. He is also in a continuously drunk, drugged and mentally unstable condition, which is made more precarious by the persistent invasion of undersirables such as his mother, reporters, record executives--people squeezing out more money and forcing the obese, hermitic Whale Man to blockade his house to avoid institutionalization. The one thing which keeps Des focused is in composing the dreamlike Whale Music which he will use to summon the whales. One day he wakes up to find a guest: Claire, "the naked alien from the far-off planet of Toronto." She has come to him for personal reasons and also because she believes in him, without recompense.

Quarrington borrows the events from the real life of a former member of the Beach Boys who became a recluse and drug addict in similar circumsances, but reality and fiction are woven together so expertly, like music weaving its way into silence, that it just becomes part of the joke, a device which he employs. To the Whale Man, music is an ethereal being with a spirit all its own...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
There are a rare few writers in our society that can capture the paradox between the fragility and strength of the human spirit like Paul Quarrington. The alcoholic, drug-addicted main character spends his time talking to ghosts of his past, dunking his naked, corpulent body in the pool, and working on a composition for the whales below his cliff-side house. An uninvited visitor from another universe turns his life upside-down and he is forced to face the ghosts of his past, present, and future. In the process he lays bare those things that we most hide about our own selves, that make up the very essence of those things which make us human. If you like books which forever change the way you look at life, "Whale Music" is for you
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4.0 out of 5 stars Smile ... June 27 2001
By Julia
Format:Hardcover
It has been at least ten years since I read this book but I still remember it fondly. It is largely a thinly-fictionalized account of the turbulent life of Brian Wilson, not exactly, but he is obviously the prototype for the eccentric musical genius protagonist and former songwriter/producer/singer of a California-based brother act. I was insipred to try to track it down again after reading about an all-star Brian Wilson tribute concert. My dim memory of this book is that the narrator is the Wilson-based character, who also reminded me a bit of the hero of John Kennedy Toole's great rambling novel "A Confederacy of Dunces." There are some laugh-out-loud sequences in this book as well as the expected tortured-artist tales. I would gladly read it again.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fantasy is Reality Nov. 9 2001
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Anyone who has been semi conscious on Earth over the last 40 years knows that "Whale Music" draws it's inspiration from The Beach Boy's creative genius; Brian Wilson. As I recollect, Mr. Quarrington's book hit the shelves at about the same time as Mr. Wilson's autobiography. Having read both, I would choose to re-read 'Whale Music'. At it's worst, it's fictionalized take off on the man's life is extremely entertaining. At it's best, it's a great satire of the media's reporting of Mr. Wilson's every ingested cheeseburger. I love this book and, I especially love Brian Wilson's contribution to the world.
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