Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Now Reading: Glimpses by Lewis Shiner

Shiner_GlimpsesGlimpses, by Lewis Shiner, was originally published in 1993 by William Morrow and Company. The following year it won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. I read Glimpses when it was originally published -- at a time when I was listening to a lot of music on CDs. Since then, the book has sat on a shelf, until now....

The protagonist in the story, Ray Shackleford, has his own stereo repair business; obviously he listens to a lot of music. He's also caught up in an eleven-year marriage that is cold, unemotional: a dead-end. He's also dealing with the recent death of his father: a man Ray hated, but he never got the opportunity -- or was never man enough -- to tell his father how he felt.

Amidst all this grief and angst, Roy has discovered the ability to channel his emotions into the music of Jim Morrison, Brian Wilson, The Beatles, and Jimi Hendrix -- music that the musicians attempted, almost created, but never completed. Only this time around Roy, in a dreamlike fugue state, is able to record this music that never was.
"Shiner couldn't have written this book without a deeply felt sense of the fragility of art, of how many great works have passed into the ages never to enlighten, inform, or entertain new generations. Though the masterworks he conjures up in such exquisite detail are lost to us, we now have a bit of compensation for their absence: a masterpiece of the imagination called Glimpses." —Richard Foss, Los Angeles Reader

"You don't have to be a musician to love Glimpses, but musicians will appreciate how free it is of the strained, embarrassing attempts to describe the musical process that torpedo so many non-musicians when they try to write about music. Much less gimmicky than it sounds, Glimpses is ingenious, well-crafted, and deeply moving."
—Joe Gore, Guitar Player

"Though he's dealing with a somewhat strained metaphor—the unfinished business of a generation—Shiner is enough of a storyteller that you're never put off by the underlying sentimentality. Even more impressive, he makes you believe the albums his (admittedly autobiographical) protagonist conjures up are the masterpieces they're supposed to be. Quite a performance." —Stereo Review

When the book was published in France in 2014. Shiner's French publisher put together a complete playlist of all the songs mentioned or played throughout the novel. (Scroll down at the link; but one caveat: the text is in French, but you can still make out all the song titles.) But the French publisher didn't stop there: he put together a YouTube video playlist of all the songs as well. So as you read the book, you can hit YouTube to listen to all (or most; some vids are not available in the U.S.) of the songs as they are mentioned throughout the novel.

Glimpses was reprinted in paperback in 2012, with an absolutely dreadful blue cover; so if you were ever to purchase a copy, please snag the original hardcover, pictured here. Since the original hardcover is long out of print, you can actually pick up a used copy that's very inexpensive, in fact cheaper than the paperback edition.

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