Aspiring writers are often told to write about what they know, and for his first novel Collinson evidently has. Just like central character Adam Fairhead, Collinson worked in Los Angeles as a record company executive, and credits his Uncle Ian with the bird watching knowledge which is tightly woven into the book. Perhaps not two of the most obvious of subjects to combine – “birding” and LA’s hipster music scene, but it works better than you might think.
The book is engagingly scathing in its depiction of the music industry. Record company underling Scott is a wonderfully drawn vacuous sycophant, while boss Jason (rather irritatingly called the Autodidact for most of the book) is every inch the narcissistic twit. Whilst most of the performers are spared, the managers and promoters are excoriated in detail. The cynical manufacturing of modern music is shown at length and inevitably there are tales of excess and debauchery. Whilst hedonism is natural backdrop to Fairhead’s line of work, his indulgence came to feel at odds with the his otherwise obvious self-awareness and insight. Whilst neither guarantee any self-discipline Fairhead’s poor decision making did start to test the limits of credibility a little.
Collinson offsets the grubbiness of the industry with the natural beauty of LA, easily found just a few steps off the beaten track. The pleasure Fairhead takes from nature is the counter-point to his ever increasing self-loathing, seemingly hell bent on tarnishing anything he holds dear.
The story is told in part through his day to day activities – at the record company, out hiking, dating – and partly via Adam’s retrospective internal monologue. I found the former real page turning stuff but the latter something of a drag, although there are moments of laugh out loud humour (no spoilers but watch out for the goose) which make up for some of this. In no time at all I was rooting for Adam to face his demons and set his life straight but I have to confess I found the book’s conclusion a bit of a cop-out.
It’s not really about the music or the birds in the end. It’s about a man looking at his life and wondering if he’s wasted it. Adam’s conclusion? You’ll have to read the book….
Length of Read:Medium
Might appeal to people who enjoyed…
Anyone with an interest in the music indusrty. And possibly bird spotting.
One thing you’ve learned
The first book I’ve read that comes with a suggested playlist.