Books: The Ex-files of pop

The Exes by Pagan Kennedy, Simon & Schuster pounds 10

Shortlisted for the Orange Prize in 1996 for her first novel Spinsters, Pagan Kennedy has moved on in The Exes to view all the world as a stage and life as a rousing rock gig. Her protagonists Hank and Lilly tear themselves to pieces as a couple, but find a deeper connection once they stick to playing their guitars. In her youth Lilly had created her own punk scene in Knoxville, Tennessee, and learnt the look by studying the back of Patti Smith album covers.

All the "white-trash poetry" in Lilly's nature and her desperate need for attention are turned to good account and great PR when she and Hank form the Exes, a band consisting strictly of ex-couples - which keeps audiences and music press guessing about their sleeping arrangements on tour. Band members come to accept that it is easier to stay in synch in music than in love.

Hank is a pale, watery-eyed ex-Boy Scout with so little angst in his Midwestern past that he can scarcely think of anything to scream about on stage except maybe the death of his poodle Mittens. Yet this is a man with an unerring radar for spotting talent, who can pull together misfits and set them on the road to musical glory.

For money he works in a shop called Vile Vinyl - reminiscent of Nick Hornby's Championship Vinyl in High Fidelity, though here there is less hit listing and nostalgia by numbers, and more of a shake-down of the urge to groove at all.

Hank spots Shazia Dchra, a bisexual Pakistani Muslim (plenty of angst there) who is a spectacular bass guitarist. She has already been lured away from a gay-girl band scene by an "intense" male musician who loved and left her. She brings to the Exes yet another ex-lover, a troubled genius biologist who has recently dropped out of Harvard and into a loony bin, though now he is trying to be "normal" as a mail carrier by day and a drummer by night; most significantly, Walt has a van.

Weird and wired as these individuals may be, when they step on stage, redemption is at hand. Kennedy is fascinated by why this should be, how lonely musical obsession finds expression, how loose wires connect and a band becomes more than the sum of its members.

Kennedy is best at a laid-back bantering irony, and she never hectors with her wisecracks, though sometimes she is overweening with her imagery, or that of her characters. When scientific Walt starts pondering that "each atom is a kind of molecular rock band; the elegant and stable helium would be the Beatles ..." etc, it definitely looks like time for Walt to get back to the drum kit.

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam