Friday, 2 November 2012

Name Dropping - Lily Brett and Lola Bensky

I've just read Lily Brett's Lola Bensky. It was a mixed read for me. It was my first foray into Lily Brett and only triggered by my membership of my Australian Bookclub.

The novel centres around a young Australian music journalist who travels to London and New York in the 60s to interview the rock stars for her Australian magazine. She's very young, quite innocent and ends up backstage with the most amazing array of iconic characters. It verges on unbelievable.

The conversations she has are often about herself and her family and their holocaust experience. At times it felt a bit twee to find her with yet another star innocently musing on her weight (another theme) and her life. I felt engaged with the Jewishness of the Bensky character but her drive-by relationship with the musicians of the 60s didn't quite work for me. I guess Lola's (Jewish) tendency to constantly ask questions and become absorbed in her own life , triggered by her conversations was the intent but it became a bit predictable and indulgent for me. Jimi Hendrix is portrayed as a sweetie, Jagger as intelligent and insightful and Jim Morrison as an arsehole. Mind you, I did find myself singing many of the tunes of the 60s which she dropped into the text along the way. Am I just nostalgic, or was that an era of exceptional pop music? Beatles, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Mamas and Pappas, Sonny and Cher, Canned Heat, the Doors etc etc to name just a few that appear on the pages.

As it happened I was finishing reading "Pig City" by Andrew Stafford at the same time (a factual account of the politics and music of Brisbane in the 70s, 80s and 90s). Stafford is not Brisbane born and was a kid when all this happened so, I suspect. he's not setting out to create some new mythology. His account explains the phenomena of creativity thriving under adversity. The era was characterised by political oppression and an attempt to smash the counter culture and suppress dissent. The pig in the title is a slang reference to the police and the 'police state' of the time.I was excited by the dash and daring of the Brisbane bands of the era even though I seemed to have missed many of them (Saints, Gangajang, Tex Perkins, and my favourite band name - Pineapples from the Dawn of Time). I was a late convert to the Go Betweens even though I was at Uni with their drummer Lindy Morrison. My turn to drop names. Stafford finishes with Powderfinger in full flight.

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