Around the time of The Who’s Endless Wire album, Pete Townshend mentioned on his blog that he was working on a project with the working title of Floss, which he intended to be a multi media effort – an opera, a novel and an art installation were all formats mooted. Finally, we have one incarnation, albeit with a new title, in the form of this novel. Townshend mentions in his afterword that the book was actually finished in May 2013, but oddly gives no clue as to why it’s been in the works for so long. It’s a complicated and sometimes confusing work, containing, I would suggest, a number of autobiographical elements. It’s the tale of an ex- junkie art dealer (who also acts as narrator), a rock star turned film star who has a breakdown and becomes a hermit and a painter of apocalyptic visions, and a younger musician who begins seeing and hearing connections with his live audience in the form of soundscapes, aural hallucinations if you will, somewhat akin to the scenario of Tommy and the abandoned Lifehouse project. Throw in a pair of Irish sisters, one of whom murdered their father and talks to angels, and you’ll realise this is not your everyday run of the mill narrative. In fact, I’m still unsure what the book is actually ‘about’, perhaps it’s saying that music is more than just the notes we hear, or maybe that it’s a thin line between genius and madness. At times the narrator appears to be a thinly disguised version of the author himself, as he ponders on music and art, sex and drugs and indeed life itself. It has something of a sticky start, but get past the first few chapters and the novel sparks into life as the interlocking stories of the three main protagonists come together for the finale. (It’s difficult to elaborate further without giving the plot away.) Overall, this is quite a complex book and a challenging read, but it is worth the effort, and I believe this will prove to be one of those novels that reward you by revealing a few more of their secrets with each subsequent reading.
Length of Read:Medium
Might appeal to people who enjoyed…
The Who, mazes
One thing you’ve learned
If I had to choose one Who song to sum up this novel’s themes, I think I’d have to go for Pure and Easy.