The Rich Man's Table
AbeBooks Mitglied seit 1996
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AbeBooks Mitglied seit 1996
Titel: The Rich Man's Table
Zustand des Schutzumschlags: Dust Jacket Included
Auflage: 1st Edition
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From the greatly admired author of Men in Black, Waking the Dead, and Endless Love, a novel about a legendary singer who was the god of music to the young of the 1960s and 1970s, as seen through the eyes of his illegitimate son.
The narrator is Billy Rothschild, who grows up obsessively searching for the father he never knew. He's nine when he discovers his father is Luke Fairchild, the most idolized and imitated folk-rock singer of his time, embraced as the truth-telling voice of his generation. Later Billy discovers that Esther (his mother) and Luke were the emblematic couple; a picture of them wrapped in each other's arms, walking down a rainy New York City street, graced the cover of Luke's most famous early album. Songs about Esther abound in the Fairchild songbook.
Unacknowledged by Luke, tormented by the omnipresence of the Luke Fairchild legend, Billy seeks out everyone and anyone who can give him information: the priest who almost brought Luke to Christ (Father Richard Parker: "Luke had thrown himself into so many things--communistic thinking, Hinduism, drugs, patriotism, materialism . . . But he always burned right through it . . . I saw in Luke . . . a man haunted by God") . . . Luke's former lovers . . . Luke's musicians . . . Luke's drivers . . . Luke's myriad interviewers . . . Luke's drug couriers . . . Luke's friends, yes-men, enemies.
Billy becomes the chronicler of his father's life, and the story takes shape both as Billy's discovery of himself and as the biography of Luke Fairchild.
The Rich Man's Table brilliantly spans the decades between the early sixties, when Luke, then a scruffy folk singer, played for handouts in Greenwich Village nightclubs, and the late nineties, when the dreams of youth have faded in the wake of lost loves, dashed hopes, and the nightmarish distortions of fame. Scott Spencer brings alive the energy and the essence of that time for those who were there, as well as for those who wish they had been.
Scott Spencer has not yet written the Great American Novel, but the stunning opening of Endless Love (which puts the Brooke Shields film version to shame) is a fair contender for the Great American First Chapter. A study of obsessive lust, it belongs just one shelf down from Lolita. And Spencer's 1995 Men in Black, about a downtrodden serious novelist who pens a trashy bestseller about space aliens, is by most accounts even funnier than the 1997 sci-fi comedy of the same name.
Now Spencer has written the Great American Novel About Bob Dylan. The Rich Man's Table calls Dylan Luke Fairchild, and it's narrated by his illegitimate son, Billy, obsessed with forcing Fairchild to acknowledge him. Now, the real Dylan's (legitimate) son is the bandleader of the Wallflowers, and his papa is clearly proud that both of them have hit albums (Bringing Down the Horse and Time Out of Mind, with tie-in paperbacks for both Bringing Down the Horse and Time Out of Mind).
Even so, Spencer's Luke Fairchild is a completely plausible, richly detailed portrait of the rock star Dylan might have been in a parallel world. "How did a shapeless Jewish kid from the Midwest become so famous, so beloved, so despised, so lonely, so pious, so drug-addicted, so vicious, so misunderstood, so overanalyzed?" wonders Billy, who proceeds to find out by interviewing everybody Luke ever knew. Young Luke (a "faintly girlish beauty") learns his trade from old blues singers and New York pinko folkies, spurns them for decadent rock, sings about an unjustly accused man who embarrassingly turns out to have been justly accused of murder, and ages badly. ("The mockery was gone ... his drugged-out eyes were no more expressive than olives.") Luke is high and mighty about being down-home and unpretentious, like Dylan who, when he was offered fine wine by the Beatles, demanded cheap wine instead (and guzzled the fine wine while waiting for the cheap to arrive by expensive courier).
So close is Luke to Dylan that much of Spencer's novel constitutes a clever criticism of Dylan's actual pretensions and achievements. Unlike the deranged Romeo who narrates Endless Love, Billy makes the object of his obsessive affections come to life as a character. To verify Luke's similarity to the real singer, check out Bob Dylan's only book, Tarantula.
Some readers will find the roman a clef aspect of The Rich Man's Table irritating, distracting. The book's defenders will have to excuse a plot as reedy as Luke's (and Bob's) singing voice. And Luke's song lyrics, while often good pastiche, are too obviously connected to the events in his life to be fully, incomprehensibly Dylanesque.
Even so, you've got to grant Spencer's emotional perfect pitch, especially when he's describing self-deception and self-loathing. He has a poet's eye and a wicked gift for metaphor. And while he takes his characters seriously, he is a merciless satirist of celebrity culture: One doctor Billy interviews tells him, "Luke didn't have much of a capacity for pain but then added, with an inside dopester's smirk, that he did, however, have a large capacity for painkillers." We will probably never have a real insider's portrait of Bob Dylan. But who needs it? The reality can't match Scott Spencer's imagination. --Tim Appelo
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