Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Broad Street

The first thing I noticed about Christine Weiser’s debut novel, Broad Street, is the cover. Hot pink with an iconic Roy Lichtenstein-esque illustration of a woman in a blue evening gown rocking out on a bass guitar, the artwork struck me as fresh and bold—more Mexican wrestling poster (and I mean that in a good way!) than staid book cover—which, it turns out, makes it the perfect match for Weiser’s fresh, bold literary voice.

The novel opens with the recently-single protagonist Kit Green making a drunken pact with her friend and partner in crime, Margo Bevilacqua, to start an all-girl band with the express purpose of pissing off the musical men in their lives. From here, the novel is a roller-coaster ride through the ups and downs of life in the independent music scene. As the author’s bio notes, Weiser herself played bass in a Philly girl band called Mae Pang back in the nineties. The experience obviously left a lasting impression, for all of Kit’s struggles come across as genuine and heartfelt. In short, the woman has walked the walk, so she knows exactly what she’s saying when she talks the talk—and this fact comes across on every page.

While the Philadelphia music scene circa 1994 provides a brilliant backdrop for this novel (and Weiser imagines that setting vivdly), Broad Street is about so much more than Kit and Margo’s adventures in the music industry. It’s about their individual struggles to find their respective places in the world at large. Indeed, it’s a quest for identity. Both women desperately want to declare independence—from the men in their lives, from their families, from the dead-end jobs they work just to make ends meet—and in so doing, to emerge fully into adulthood. And if they have fun while they’re doing it, then so much the better!

Bottom line: Broad Street is a great, fun book about coming of age in the often seedy and always exciting world of rock ‘n’ roll. Imagine the women of Sex and the City strapping on guitars, and you’ll get a sense of what it’s all about. The perfect survival guide for anyone considering a career in the music business.

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