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Time Won't Let Me
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Time Won't Let Me

3.0 2
by Bill Scheft
 

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In Bill Scheft's hilarious second novel, a finalist for the 2006 Thurber Prize for American Humor, five former members of a rock band, fast approaching age fifty, try to overcome their petty feuds and failed (and failing) marriages to recapture the fading yet distinct tone of their music and friendships.

In 1967, while students at Chase Academy, the prep-school

Overview

In Bill Scheft's hilarious second novel, a finalist for the 2006 Thurber Prize for American Humor, five former members of a rock band, fast approaching age fifty, try to overcome their petty feuds and failed (and failing) marriages to recapture the fading yet distinct tone of their music and friendships.

In 1967, while students at Chase Academy, the prep-school garage band known as the Truants recorded a vanity album, Out of Site. Thirty years later, they discover that a record collector has paid $10,000 for a rare copy of the disk, and an avid fan-turned-promoter convinces them to reunite and cash in. But miles from the horizon of youth, weighted down by shortsighted choices and mortgaged ambitions, they find that's not so simple.

Richie, a divorce lawyer, must stop seducing clients with karaoke. John, a dermatologist, needs to escape the would-be patients who corner him at parties, sleeves rolled up—or worse. Tim must introduce his wife to his drum set, hidden in the attic the way most guys hide porn. Brian has to desert the thesis he's been "completing" for twenty-five years. And somebody, somehow, has to track down Jerry, a hopeless gambler/Equal addict last seen flying to the Caymans with $1 million taped to his body. Along the way they encounter a delusional sister, an anatomically blessed baker, Les Paul, and former J. Geils Band lead singer Peter Wolf.

With his trademark relentless humor, light and dark, and his compassion for the second acts of the baby boomer experience, Bill Scheft follows up his critically acclaimed debut novel, The Ringer, with another hysterical, touching look at chaotic lives in search of harmony.

Editorial Reviews

Carl Hiaasen
“A riotous novel. More fun than a night on the town with Keith Richards, without the ambulance ride.”
Senator - John Kerry
"If only my high school band’s album fetched as much on EBay these days, I wouldn’t need to have fundraisers."
Publishers Weekly
Author of the Sports Illustrated column "The Show" and a former Late Show with David Letterman writer, Scheft (The Ringer) returns to fiction with a laugh-out-loud story of aging rock stars reclaiming their musical ids. After their whimsical anthems took their classmate at Chase Academy by storm in the late '60s, the Truants, a Kinks-style garage band, made a record, disbanded and faded into musical oblivion, becoming an asterisk on the long list of good-but-not-great garage bands. Fast-forward three decades when a German record collector shells out $10,000 for a rare copy of their album, and, to everyone's surprise, their five minutes of fame seem poised for extension. A potential gig at their 30th high school reunion gives Scheft a welcome opportunity to make fun of their lives: John, a dermatologist repulsed by strangers' requests to "look at this" or that skin ailment; Richie, a sleazy divorce lawyer who beds his clients; gay Latin (the language) enthusiast Brian; uxorious drummer Tim; and Jerry, who's addicted to gambling and the sugar substitute Equal. Add a hapless sibling eager to reunite the gang, an expletive-driven record connoisseur, an anatomically blessed baker, a knitted plot of dark humor and daffy scenarios, and a unique jocular style, and this sophomore novel hits all the right notes. (Dec. 1) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This rock-'n'-roll novel about the reunion of a New England garage band has a promising premise, but an off-key execution. Scheft (The Ringer, 2002) has written for David Letterman and for Sports Illustrated (where he contributed a humor column until recently). In his second novel, which borrows its title from the hit by the Outsiders, he mines what is plainly a deep knowledge of and passion for the rock of the '60s, when amateur bands were inspired by the British Invasion to make some musical excitement of their own. Within this era of "one-hit wonders," Scheft's novel concerns a no-hit band named the Truants, who formed in prep school and disbanded when they graduated, but not before investing a few grand in a vanity recording project resulting in a little-heard album. More than three decades later, well after most of the Truants have lost contact with each other, that album has somehow become a prized obscurity, reportedly worth $10,000 to at least one collector. As the Truants regroup to capitalize on their higher profile, the novel loses its rhythm to a bewildering array of subplots, some of which are absurd, few of which are as funny as Scheft likely intended. One of the former musicians is a gambler in way over his head; another is a barely closeted homosexual still working on his doctoral thesis; a third is an oversexed lawyer representing a fourth bandmate in a divorce. A sister of one of the bandmates provides some obligatory romantic complication. Though the novelist plainly has some affection for his characters, the reader doesn't get the chance to develop the same, as the plot jumps from one episode to the next, while enveloping some real Boston musicians, including PeterWolf from the J. Geils Band and Barry Tashian of The Remains. The musical references may strike a responsive chord, but the story of lost youth, midlife crises and rock-'n'-roll redemption can't keep the beat.
Molly Jong-Fast
“The funniest, saddest, most wonderful book I’ve read in a long time. Bill Scheft is a genius, a comic God.”
Paul Shaffer
“Time Won’t Let Me is for anybody with as warped a sense of humor as mine.”
Senator John Kerry
“If only my high school band’s album fetched as much on EBay these days, I wouldn’t need to have fundraisers.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060797096
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
11/28/2006
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.68(d)

Read an Excerpt

Time Won't Let Me
A Novel

Chapter One

1965-1967

If you really want to know the truth, the roots were not rock and roll, folk, or skiffle. The roots of the band known as the Truants came from detention. In the little known "Fire Extinguisher Wars" of October 1964, at Chase Academy in South Chase, New Hampshire, only ten sophomores were captured. They were sentenced to four Sundays, nine to twelve, in the Music Room, located in the dankest dankness of the Pershing Memorial Auditorium basement. Why the Music Room when there were plenty of free classrooms for the g-pop miscreants? Detention duties went to the most recent faculty hiree at Chase. And by two days, the job fell to Briggs Wentworth, who had left the nearby Nashua public school system suddenly for what he felt was the noblest of reasons: too many squares.

Briggs Wentworth was mohair jacket/clove cigarette weird enough that when he asked to hold Sunday detention in the Music Room, the dean of faculty just walked away quickly. Six of the ten sophomores served their time in a clock-watching stupor that thawed only in the last two minutes when they loaded themselves into a telepathic starting gate spring-loaded for 11:59.9. That was their only activity in detention: the end of detention.

The other four lingered. Their eyes wandered during the three hours, but purposefully. The charts on the walls. The hiatused instruments. The thicket of akimboed music stands. Independently and at once, the four came to the same conclusion: This was not a place to escape. This was a place to escape to.

Wentworth remained seated while the other six rushed to the door, continuing to write lesson plans, glee-club arrangements, or thumb through Downbeat. He was available for any questions, but the four who stayed around had none. Three of them owned guitars but were afraid to play for anyone. The other had his eye on the four-piece, randomly pummeled black-pearl Rogers drum kit in the corner. After two Sundays of lingering, they agreed to stay an additional hour the next week and try to play the one song the three guitarists knew: "Michael (Row the Boat Ashore)."

Richie Lyman, John Thiel, Tim Schlesinger, and Jerry Fyne were hardly friends. They had fought on opposite sides during the Fire Extinguisher Wars for their respective dorms, Mulvihill (Richie and John) and Grays (Tim and Jerry). Richie and Jerry had shared one intimate prep school moment the previous spring as freshmen when half a dozen juniors dunked their heads in an unflushed toilet for the unpardonable sin of being Jewish.

Tim Schlesinger had been excused from the Freshman Yid Roundup. Medical reasons. The post-knee-surgery cast on his leg made it impossible to kneel commodeward. It was his second operation since football season, when a bad foot plant on worse turf ripped his knee in two directions and his four-year, three-sport career was finished, a destination he had never anticipated. By February, he was begging his parents to humanely yank him out of Chase and let him hobble at North High, where he would be merely a guy on crutches rather than the Jew cripple. An outsider only needs one distinguishing feature. Anything more borders on showy.

Tim's parents told him to finish the year, and he did. On the sidelines. Over the summer, the cast came off and a physical therapist suggested swimming three times a week. Chase had an indoor pool. North High did not. So, he was back the following fall, crutch-less and more than fit enough to clean and jerk a fire extinguisher.

The physical therapist also said the restrengthening process might be sped along by...and this was only if Tim was interested...working the pedal on a bass drum a few minutes a day. This suggestion had slipped Tim's mind, but was lassoed the first Sunday he walked into detention.

It helped that they were equally bad. A four-way photo finish of ineptitude. And when one would poke his head in front...when Thiel picked clean the opening eight for "House of the Rising Sun," or when Jerry ditched his Guild for some cardboard bass that was much easier to play, or when Richie discovered if he screamed himself hoarse at the football game Saturday afternoon he sounded like an Isley brother Sunday morning, or when Tim didn't chase the beat like a bus into town...the others would aspire to that new touchstone, or risk the consequences: getting shit from the rest. Three months later, they still weren't exactly friends. If they had been, they might still be working on "Michael (Row the Boat Ashore)."

The hour on Sunday quickly became two, then backed up to include two hours Saturday morning and forty minutes Wednesday at noon, when the Chase class schedule was rejiggered to accommodate traveling athletic teams and no attendance was taken at lunch. Jerry Fyne would show up last to the Music Room with a gym bag of bread and peanut butter and half-pints of Hood milk. Nobody complained. Not even when Jerry laced his milk with a sweat-sock-sheathed half-pint of Old Crow. He said it made him play better. One of the few times he wasn't lying.

Once a month, on Saturday night, a hundred or fewer teenage girls were bused into the Chase Academy gym like kilted and cardiganed migrant workers. They came from places with names like Miss Porter's, Miss Hall's, Dana Hall, and...really, you can check; go ahead...Beaver Country Day. They came hoping to dance with someone who didn't look like another girl in their dorm or biology class. Preferably someone taller. They called such gatherings "mixers," a term that aspired to euphemism. Mixers. Like club soda or quinine water. Slight difference. Those kind of mixers, uh, worked.

Everyone got one dance, thanks to a "line up against the wall and pair off" boy-girl assembly-line ritual handed down from some ancient Sado-Victorian civilization wiped out after everybody danced once and no one procreated. Following that first dance/run-through, actual participants dropped . . .

Time Won't Let Me
A Novel
. Copyright © by Bill Scheft. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

Carl Hiaasen
“A riotous novel. More fun than a night on the town with Keith Richards, without the ambulance ride.”
Molly Jong-Fast
“The funniest, saddest, most wonderful book I’ve read in a long time. Bill Scheft is a genius, a comic God.”
John Kerry
“If only my high school band’s album fetched as much on EBay these days, I wouldn’t need to have fundraisers.”
Paul Shaffer
“Time Won’t Let Me is for anybody with as warped a sense of humor as mine.”

Meet the Author

Bill Scheft is the author of The Ringer and The Best of the Show: A Classic Collection of Wit and Wisdom. He spent eleven years as head monologue writer for David Letterman. He lives in New York City.

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Time Won't Let Me 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Clete_Purcel More than 1 year ago
This is almost like two different books. The first half is very funny with a definite smart ass slant. The second half is good but almost too sweet natured for it's own good. There are a lot of good surprises in the story and overall, it is entertaining and a worthwhile read. If it had maintained it's early attitude throughout, I could have given it five stars across the board.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago