I was really looking forward to The Swan Thieves by…
Women writing about rock & roll is just about my favorite thing on the planet. It’s one of my eternal quests, to find and read all the books written by women about rock and roll, and if that book happens to be a novel? All my pleasure centers start to tingle.
So it’s kind of disappointing that Stacey D’Erasmo’s Wonderland, didn’t leave me sated and dreamy-eyed with love. Instead it left me a little puzzled and unfulfilled. Reading this novel left me with the same feeling I get when I either find a delicious line in a song I hate by an artist I don’t care for (e.g.”When I was young, I dreamt of a passionate obligation to a roommate” from Father John Misty’s “Bored in the USA”) or when I get a clunker line from someone I really admire (e.g. “All the time we were making love, I never thought we’d be breaking up” from Jenny Lewis’ “She’s Not Me”).
This novel is like that line that hits your ear and causes some kind of internal dissonance. Wonderland has all the lovely poetry so often found in music and none of the excitement, joy, or OH MY GOD I am so happy to be aliveness of it.
In this one we have, Anna Brundage a tall, redheaded used-to-be indie-music sensation. Now she’s a forty-four-year-old teacher who decided to cash in everything she has to see if she can recapture the magic of her flash in the pan music success. She sells some of the detritus from one her famous dad’s art installations and uses the cash to fund the making of a comeback album and European tour.
The novel reveals the ups and downs of a touring while zig zagging through Anna’s past. Not only her unusual upbringing with her artist parents, but also the years at the height of her popularity. Also there’s a years-long affair with a married architect who lives in Switzerland that has something to do with something though I never quite figured out what.
And that’s kind of the problem with this book. There are three separate stories here: Current Anna trying to re-make it as a forty-four-year-old rockstar, past Anna who made it for a little bit as a thirtysomething rockstar, and past-past Anna the child of artists who as an adult is trying to reconcile something from her childhood.
These three disparate stories suck any sort of momentum right out of this novel. Like Anna, we are often stuck in her past and, well, frankly, it’s not that interesting.