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Brian Costello, The Enchanters Vs. Sprawlburg Springs

Brian Costello's debut novel The Enchanters Vs. Sprawlburg Springs is a fun romp through suburban hell (a thinly-veiled Orlando, Florida) as seen through the eyes of Shaquille Callahan, drummer for the "Protomersh" (the band's term--wheatever you do, don't call them punk) band The Enchanters.

Of course Shaq's in love with the leader singer Renee, and he's too blind to realize it will never last. Of course he thinks the band's music is revolutionary, but he's too blind to see that the band will soon collapse. Of course the band thinks they'll make it big in the promised land of...wait for it...Brooklyn, but they're all too euphoric to realize they'll never escape Sprawlburg Springs and its mind-numbing day jobs and cultural vacuity.

The band's playing is never objectively described, but it's safe to assume that it's sloppy and sophomoric, with messy drumming, rudimentary guitar and bad-poetry lyrics. But its energy and complete abandon completely wins over the disaffected and alienated teenagers of Sprawlburg Springs, who soon form something of a cult around the band, the two sides endlessly feeding off of each other and giving the band an inflated sense of its intrinsic worth.

Costello writes with great skill and humor, drawing upon his obvious knowledge of suburban monotony and local music scenes, and his great love of rock and roll. Somehow, you can't help cheering for the Enchanters, and for Shaq and Renee, even though you can sense a less-than-uplifting finish to their stories from a long way off. Yet Costello leaves the novel on a sufficiently ambiguous note to make you think that maybe, just maybe, Shaq might ultimately come out of this mess wiser and moderately unscathed, and end up with a decent life for himself.

February 24, 2006 in Books | Permalink