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The story follows Billy Mud, a burned-out New York musician, heroin addict and sex nut, who's hired by a rich businessman/rock impresario to drive a '57 DeSoto back east from California and to write about the experience. Billy's ex-girlfriend Chrissa will go along, taking pictures to accompany his prose. Billy spends most of the trip trying, halfheartedly and fruitlessly, to straighten out, and he litters the novel with musings that are flung at us like Ding-Dong wrappers from a car window: "I am vertiginous with the outpouring of tainted self-conscious atmosphere from inside me infecting and stripping the exterior, but worse having no effect on it at all."
When the novel lurches into Billy's final act of sexual depravity, we're probably supposed to be shocked and sickened as well as wrung out with compassion for this hopeless soul -- but by that point, we've been so flogged by his raw nerve endings that we can't feel much of anything ourselves. Hell's contribution to punk history is assured; this book just isn't part of it. --Salon
A junkie's journal, this clumsily written narrative relies on the thinnest of premises: A punk performer named Billy Mud, kept from recording by a record company dispute, is hired to travel cross-country and set down his impressions while his sometime girlfriend takes photos. Despite empty gestures toward literary predecessors (on Baudelaire: "I identify with him a lot"), Hell, via Mud, mostly poses throughout as a super-studly anti-bourgeois rebel. Mud is so bored (he'd say "full of ennui") with his own story that he takes time to describe the physical dimensions of his notebook. And, of course, he describes the new wardrobe he needs if he's to blend in with the normals. Once on the road—no Kerouac he—he wastes away in motel rooms, planning how to score sex or dope. Luckily, his girlfriend Chrissa is French, so he benefits from the cultural dissonance—i.e., she falls for his tired act. The too- coolly ironic Mud, a self-described "outlaw," detoxes in Reno, but then decides to cop in Denver; he visits his hometown of Lexington, Kentucky, where he and Chrissa bunk with his aunt, whose dirty underwear he sniffs prior to seducing her. When Chrissa catches him with his mother's sister, she catches a plane home: project canceled. Throughout, Mud's stream-of-drug-consciousness writing is laughably incoherent; his observations on drugs equally silly ("Junk is like an orgasm stretched in time"); and his commentary on America revealing of his own limitations ("America feels boring").
As a social critic, Hell sounds more like Paul Simon than Patti Smith. As a writer? Let's just say that rock lyrics aren't poetry, and addled scribbling not a novel.
Posted March 5, 2001
Litterally the best book i have ever read. Hell (Meyers) has out done the world. A tale of a junkie out to write about the world he sees and get payed for it. This book is on my favorite books list for life! And not many books impress me.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 9, 2008
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