Tuesday, March 29, 2011

University of Strangers by Bob Pfeifer

(Smog Veil) Pfeifer's novel, which marries the oral history format so popular in punk rock non-fiction with the diary format that rules the pre-teen girl book market, is a brisk, thrilling dip into conspiracy, corruption, and celebrity. What makes his exploration of the latter interesting is the decision of  Pfeiffer, a rock 'n' roll lifer, to find a way to sincerely lionize and celebrate musicians authors, filmmakers, comics, and journalists he admires without cynicism or any TMZ-esque desire to tear 'em down. The story is a fantasy about a Latin American novelist recruiting a high echelon hipster approved army of well known artists to fight injustice, and it intriguingly satellites the Amanda Knox trial in Italy. Despite that description, the novel is mostly low key and realistic. Though, in honor of Latin American novelists of renown, the realism while not reaching the level of magical certainly falls into the realm of absurd realism. I don't read tons of fiction, so pardon my limited palette of references, but I have to say that Pfeifer's torrent of well known name after name does not demonstrate the writerly chops of someone like Coover who intentionally overwhelms with excess, or even of that American Psycho book where all the brand names set the weird tone. And the author also has a little trouble writing in the voice of distinct comics like Woody Allen and Steven Colbert. But what the writing does achieve is a driving rhythm with characterizations that ring true enough to make the reader feel invested, and a narrative that is prurient, heroic, and cliffhanger-y enough to make reading it kind of delightful. Includes a bonus download card of songs to accompany the album, but I have a strict policy of not putting anything associated with conspiracy theories into my computer.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the link. interesting info when you google Bob Pfeifer. I had no idea his book was part non fiction. or bout his arrests, jail time etc.. appreciate it!