Not Fade Away

first_imgA confession: although On The Road is a fun read, I found that it never quite lived up to its reputation. The idea behind it all is great – drugs, rebelliousness, drink, sex and freedom – perfect ingredients for an adolescent’s ideal ofescape from home and the oldsters. It’s just that, well, it all got a bit samey after a while – they go off on a road trip, drive around a bit and come on back home. Jim Dodge’s Not Fade Away, reissued by Canongate, touches on the same territory, but with a whole chunk more gusto. Remember the Big Bopper? No, why should you, or indeed anyone born in the last 25 years. He was an old-school Rock and Roll singer, whose biggest hit was ‘Chantilly Lace’ (first line, “HELLOOOOO Baybeeeeee”). This might make sense in a minute or two. Not Fade Away follows ‘Floorboard’ George Gastin (“when it comes to whipping it down the road I’m right up there with the best. Never been in a wrech that wasn’t on purpose”), a grizzled old Beat who drives around in an old tow up truck, ‘The Ghost’. He picks up one unfortunate, and tells him the tale of his ‘Pilgrimage’. Going back many years to his youth, he recounts his days as a near-bum, listening to jazz, watching beautiful women, living with crooks and wasters. He finds himself employed by the local hoodlum, ‘Scumball’, to write off cars for insurance claims. It’s all a lot of fun until he’s asked to write off a pristine ’59 Cadillac. All this while being pursued by severely pissed-off violent gangsters, fuelled by Benzedrine and beer. Oh, and some LSD. Dodge’s writing is seriously fun; heaps of enthusiasm and lashings of atmosphere. Sadly I’ve never seen jazz the way he describes it – deep, dark and oh so dirty. Nor have I driven a soft-top classic car down those huge American highways. But thus book makes me want to seek out the seediest jazz joint in Cowley, take a crowbar to a powerful-looking car, and drive all the way to Mexico. It’s a big swirling trip of legendary musicians, drivers, roads and weird people. Try it, you might like it.ARCHIVE: 2nd week TT 2004last_img

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