- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Vintage Canada; 1st Edition edition (May 20 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0679308687
- ISBN-13: 978-0679308683
- Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 14 x 20.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 272 g
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #269,065 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Whale Music Paperback – May 20 1997
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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.
Top customer reviews
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... "The music ends, that is to say, it disappears forever to journey in the cosmos." The book is written in the present tense and frequently addresses the reader, inviting you in to make you feel like part of the story. This time, however, he has discarded the sporting subject matter of his two previous novels, "King Leary" and "Home Game," for that of music, clearly another area of expertise.
Desmond Howell's self-declared philosophy is a twisted kind of existentialism: "The most one can do is try to produce some pitiful piece of prettiness, a song, and send it out into the world, a cripple dressed in rags." If this is Paul Quarrington's philosophy as well, then this is his fifth such song, a wonderful one, and I look forward to reading them all.
A fine enough book otherwise, just avoid buying this edition. Get a properly typeset used copy somewhere. Anywhere.
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