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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell

Disappointing. Not quite finished yet, but need to organize my thoughts. It's not the technical writing itself, which is terrific, and up to Mitchell's usual lapidary standard. It's not the internal lives of the four main characters, the musicians in the 1967 folk-rock band Utopia. There's Elf, singer/keyboardist, stuck in a troubled relationship with another singer. Dean, the bassist with memories of an abusive father and a mother who died early. There's Griff, the drummer, who loses his brother in a car crash. And there's Jasper, lead guitarist, possibly autistic and suffering from a schizophrenic condition of an inner voice - well, an inner knocking, that he can decode using an alphabet key.

Cool stuff, so far. As always with Mitchell.

It's the dialogue that I dislike. The band members in particular, always communicate in highly ironic, punning, and elliptical exchanges that don't ring true to me.

And though Utopia Avenue is an imaginary band, the rest of swinging London's psychedelic rock scene is realistically evoked: Brian Jones of the Stones, the band Traffic, Nick Drake, Herman's Hermits, the Byrds, the painter Francis Bacon, Rod Stewart in his Small Faces days. These characters also speak freely with the members of Utopia Avenue -- I find their presentation more authentic.

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