Hamish Hamilton £12.99

I Play the Drums in a Band Called okay, By Toby Litt

Excess all areas? Not when you're a member of a minor Canadian rock band

"If you want to know what it feels like to be a man, try spending 25 years in a band, and then you'll be like a brother to me, and I'll be a brother to you," sang the delightfully obscure Californians The Tyde on their barely known classic "Blood Brothers". Toby Litt's ninth book (taking him up to "I" in his self-imposed alphabetic series: let's hope he's got a 26-book deal, eh?) attempts to expand upon that hard-learned lesson. Unfortunately, it lacks the elegant concision of a decent three-minute song.

Forget the Great American Novel; the Convincing Rock Novel is far more problematic. The challenge has already perplexed such heavyweights as a young DeLillo and a way too old Rushdie. Attempting to reconcile Elvis Presley and a distant caste system looks downright dull next to tales of drugged-up derring-do and touring madness. Litt has the wit to aim low, expanding several previously published short stories about a resolutely unheroic Canadian indie rock band called okay (yep, lower case and italicised), into an entire novel (or career's) worth.

They seem to be three parts REM but with a priapic junkie up front. They have stupid medical nicknames (Syph, Mono, Crab, Clap) that might have spared a punk rock band a DHSS investigation back in Thatcher's Britain, and they "sound like the Velvet Underground on quarter-speed". Not exactly stadium fodder then, even if they claim kinship with "the four great archetypal bands: The Beatles, The Band, The Velvets, The Stooges". (also the four easiest bands for tyros to emulate; no Who or Hendrix technical challenges for okay). One likes drugs and sex, one likes booze, one likes fishing and the other is drummer Clap, Brian to his parents. He narrates.

Litt has previously confessed that his own rock dreams receded with his hairline, but even as an attempt to write them into existence this falls flat. It's like finding yourself on holiday with only one book, a biography of someone you've never heard of and care little about. Even potentially absurdist touches such as a partial discography throw up few decent jokes (though "Songs of Defeat AKA Country Album" sounds horribly plausible, and "Vancouver Drug-Hoover" surely rocked hard). The odd tour story rings true, such as a blackly comic run-in with the Moscow Mafiya or the rest of the band voting not to search for their missing frontman. The drummer's memories of blanking a friendly librarian and (unconvincingly) cultivating an interest in classical music are far less interesting.

There is a tone that runs through most popular entertainers' confessionals, a rueful horror at seeing one's alleged exploits recounted in cold print rather than retold at the hotel bar. But this author has eschewed this entertaining, probably mendacious approach in favour of these casually dim reminiscences. Clap has very little to confess to, save a case of late-onset Buddhism and the realisation that he really really loves his kids. Perhaps Litt intends it as a jokeless satire on the elevation of the mediocre to the ranks of the wealthy, but who wants to read about a smaller than life rock star?

Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

    'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

    In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
    VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

    How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

    Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
    They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

    Typefaces still matter in the digital age

    A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
    Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

    'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

    New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
    The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

    Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

    Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

    Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
    Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

    Ronald McDonald the muse

    A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
    13 best picnic blankets

    13 best picnic blankets

    Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants