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
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
Arts and Entertainment
Crowd control: institutions like New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art are packed

Art
Arts and Entertainment
Cillian Murphy stars as Tommy Shelby in Peaky Blinders

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
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.

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices