Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Review: Here Goes Nothing

As soon as I clicked 'borrow' in Libby, I congratulated myself for deciding to listen to Eamon McGath's Here Goes Nothing: A Novel. A glance at the book's blurb told me that I'd be getting a glimpse into life on the road with a touring band. I'm always curious how people deal with the grind of travel, and a band that needs to perform night after night, would surely have useful insights for dealing with these challenges.

Within a minute of listening to the text, I had to reset my expectations. This wasn't an organized narrative of a band's adventures; this was a glimpse into chaotic exploits held together by alcohol, drugs, a reckless disregard of life, property and social norms, and more alcohol.

Here Goes Nothing interweaves at least two touring experiences, one early in our protagonist's career, the other later. While there's clearly growth--the van gets fancier, the recklessness is dialed down a tad--not a whole lot changes. And that's probably the point: the life of a touring band is like many big investment, big payoff endeavors: long stretches of exhaustion, boredom and fatigue, punctuated by moments of immeasurable joy and excitement.

Compared to the plodding and predicable story I just finished, I found the confusion and disorientation of McGrath's tale to be a welcome change.

The audio version of Here Goes Nothing makes frequent use of musical playing over the narrator. While this can be disorienting, the effect it has on mood is substantial. Without fully appreciating it, the music can work with the story to build intense tension and then change to reinforce the relief that the text delivers. It certainly adds depth to the telling of the story, and seems more than appropriate in book about the pursuit of the perfect musical performance.

Ultimately, I got more than I bargained for in McGrath's story. I was hoping I might pick up some tips about navigating life on the road. What I found instead was the opportunity to wrestle with some of life's biggest questions: how far should one go to pursue one's passion? What happens if your passion is also your poison? Is chasing your glory days commitment to excellence, or a fool's errand?

It's easy for me to shake my head and say dude: just let it go. The drugs, the drinking, the wear on your body and mind--it's just not worth it. But I can see in McGrath's narrative the reflection of all great pursuits; they're hard but the pay off makes it worth chasing. So as much as I want the characters in Here Goes Nothing to retire, I can't help but encourage them: Rock On!

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