From White Noise to Joey Ramone

On my little 4th of July jaunt to Iowa I took a copy of Don DeLillo’s novel White Noise to read but on a visit to the local Barnes and Noble I came across a novel, the title of which really nabbed my interest — I Want to be your Joey Ramone, by Stephanie Kuehnert. It seemed pretty GenX-y, so, you know….

Published by Mtv books its the story about a girl who grows up without her mother and turns to music, specifically punk music, because her father tells her that her mother left because she was a free spirit and was compelled to follow the music. Turns out that isn’t exactly true. Anyway this girl harbors this hope that her music will perhaps catch her mother’s attention and bring her home.

I plowed through this book in about two days, which is unusual for me, but then it wasn’t a very hard book to read. Pretty straight line plot. Nothing overly ambitious. In some ways the drama was pretty junior highish, the typical kind of character psychology, although I suppose it was trying to be edgy by portraying young girls as trolling for guys and boozing it up, chain smoking, doing drugs and hanging out an old warehouse converted to a band venue. And of course the main character’s band hits it big, getting a record contract, showing up her ex’s lesser musical talents. All very girl power-ish. All the male characters in it our either very quiet and sturdy and support the wild raging of the female characters or they are whiney and immature or even threatening. But hey, Hemingway had most of his female characters pretty much stock typed and marginalized, so you know…

Having said all that, I liked it well enough. I like the subject matter, the whole band subculture thing. I had friends who had bands back when we were right out of high school. They weren’t punk, more late 80s Pretty Boy Alternative or whatever, but still…. None of them hit it big, but a few albums were produced. It was a cool time. I do think better novels could be written about this world. But I Want to be your Joey Ramone ain’t half bad.

I recommended this novel to the Young Adult librarian where I work because it seemed more like a Young Adult novel than a regular adult novel, but the YA librarian had some reservations, because it is marketed an adult novel and has the drug use and sex etc. I argued that though it did have some so-called edgy subject matter it was pretty heavy with positive message, which was part of what I didn’t like about the book. I want drama not lessons from a novel. I want it to make me think and feel, not tell me what to do and how to do it. We’ll see if it get added or not.

So now I’m back to White Noise, which seems to strike a bit of pretentious posture, if you ask me, not that anyone really is, but I’ve always felt that I should read at least one thing of Delillo’s and so now I’m doing it. This novel was pubbed in 1986, the year I graduated, which seemed significant for reasons I cannot really explain, so don’t fucking ask.

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