Sunday, March 20, 2011

Whacked Out Characters Rule in ALT.PUNK by Lavina Ludlow

Whacked Out Characters Rule in ALT.PUNK

Review by Timothy Gager

by Lavinia Ludlow
Casperian Books

If I were to review this book in one sentence it would be the following: Author Lavinia Ludlow covers her characters and sets the book in such heavy slime that even her protagonist, Hazel, an OCD germ freak cannot wash it off.

When the book opens, Hazel is stuck in her own personal jail. She is a writer that aimlessly manages a Safeway, sterilizes her home nightly in bleach, has food hang-ups and dates Kree, a wannabe actor who loses copious amounts of pubic hair around the house. You get the feeling, dealing through the eyes of Hazel that anything physical involving the world or Kree should be dealt with wearing Hazmat suit.

Hazel makes enough money to support both of them while worrying most of the time about the danger of fluids and germs floating in her impossible to keep perfect environment. How does a woman get into this mental state? I would guess that there is definitely mother issues and here Ludlow does not let us down by creating a neurosis producing monster; a nit picking, nagging, negative, perfectionist who is sprinkled with a large dose of mean straight up.

This is just the tip of the iceberg which sends Hazel off to a new boyfriend, Otis who fronts the band Riot Venom. Otis makes the grungy Kree feel squeaky clean in comparison. In nearly every scene involving Otis, the reader often feels like they’re living in the dirtiest of public restrooms complete with the Loch Ness turd poking over the water line. This creates an opportunity for Hazel to leaves her job and her life to go on tour with Riot Venom and in essense to take care of her new love, Otis, on the road. Without spoiling the outcome, Hazel’s life spirals out of control with drugs and germs, piss and puke, as well as sarcasm and suicidal ideologies. What creates a brilliant counter jab in this punch in the face novel is the ability of Ludlow to produce poignant sardonic humor within Hazel, often involving Landon (Otis’s anarchist and loyal brother). The constant banter and one-liners made this a very enjoyable reading experience.

Also of note, for a book that focuses and is mostly set within a band, Ludlow’s experience as a musician really pays off. There are no descriptions of “crisp drum openings” or the “boom-boom-booms” of the bass. This pre-school style musical terms are often found in books where the author has no idea what they are musically talking about or are just bad writers. Ludlow’s novel is about the characters whom happen to play music. This people are believable and real even at their most self-destructive times. In life, we’ve all had friends that have made decisions that lead them down dark roads and if you’ve lived long enough know there is nothing you can do about it. In alt.punk when you recognize this you can make a decision to stop reading but in my case I was glad that I didn’t. I was completely rewarded and entertained by this fun and often tongue in cheek novel. Recommended.

Timothy Gager is the author of eight books of fiction and poetry. He lives on

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