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Art Edwards ART EDWARDS's third novel, Badge (2014), was named a finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association's Literary Contest for 2011. His second novel, Ghost Notes, released on his own imprint Defunct Press in 2008, won the 2009 PODBRAM Award for best work of contemporary fiction. His first novel, Stuck Outside of Phoenix, has been made into a feature film. His writing has or will appear in The Writer, Writers' Journal and Pear Noir!, and online at Salon, The Los Angeles Review, Word Riot, The Collagist, PANK, JMWW, Bartleby Snopes, The Rumpus and The Weeklings. In the 1990s he was co-founder, co-songwriter and bass player with the Refreshments.

Recent Work By Art Edwards

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One of the biggest problems with selling people on the idea of a rock novel is the term “rock novel.”  There’s something about the two words that don’t want to go together. In 2014, “rock” suggests teenage boys—or men acting like teenage boys—watching one of their favorite bands on TV and getting excited. “These guys rock,” might be said. The word “rock” as a verb also has become shorthand for anything anyone does well. For example, “Thanks, Bob and Jackie, for inputting those contacts into the spreadsheet. You guys rock.” It seems “rock” can be used across the board for the least rocking things imaginable. As a rock novelist three times over, I can’t say this rocks.

Thirteenth Note

By Art Edwards

Essay

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When I started playing bass guitar at fourteen, I had it in my head to do something revolutionary with the instrument. I’m sure I was like other kids in the eighties who bought axes and imagined they’d summon their inner Eddie Van Halens to become some kind of wunderkind. The path to this land for me was murky, but the end result—being crowned the Undisputed King of the Bass—was clear. I had only one clue to finding this Valhallic destination, and that was the thirteenth note.

9780060391683_p0_v1_s260x420-1“You should read Story by Robert McKee,” Nico said.

This was 2010. Nico had agreed to produce the screenplay version of my first novel, Stuck Outside of Phoenix–a screenplay I hadn’t started yet–and he was no doubt concerned about what I might hand over. I’d never written a screenplay, but with more than a decade of daily writing under my belt, I felt I had what it took to crank out a feature-length version of my own novel. Still, I bought a copy of Story as insurance. It lingered in a pile of books for a few months, and after the first draft of the screenplay was finished, I sold it back.

The Gift of No

By Art Edwards

Writing

You’ve submitted your novel manuscript for six months, a year, two years. You’ve submitted it to ten, 50, 100 literary agents. You’ve submitted it to five, 15, 25 publishing companies. And all you’ve gotten for these efforts—when people have bothered to respond—is many clever and not-so-clever variations on “no.”

Well, all is not lost. It’s 2013, which means you can self-publish your novel. For a small fee—or even for free—you can publish an e-book or print-on-demand title and have it distributed to many of the same markets popular writers enjoy. No more do you have to rely on the publishing elite to get your work out there. You can do it yourself, and you never have to hear “no” again.

I received the rejection early yesterday morning, the last one, the one I’d been waiting on.

I finished my third novel, Badge, in late 2010, brimming with the confidence of having finally created something the traditional publishing industry might actually want. Ever since I cracked my first Vonnegut paperback when I was eighteen, I’ve fantasized about spending my life writing novels. Back then, such a dream required—and for the most part still does—getting an agent and a publisher.

I bought a Kindle, which means I’m the devil.

I’m the devil because Kindle is part of the vast network of Amazon, whose goal is pretty much to destroy everything I hold dear in my brick-and-mortar culture. And they employ a morally reprehensible scheme to do so. They charge less than what a book actually costs them, taking a small loss on each sale, with the hope of driving every other book retailer out of business. Kind of like gas wars from fifty years ago, when two competing gas stations lowered their prices beyond profitability to beat the guy next door, but in this situation Amazon’s the only company that can afford to lose money. Their job, as they seem to see it, is to keep dumping cash into themselves until they become the go-to place for not just books, but everything. “Don’t waste your time going to your local store. Buy it from Amazon for less and you’ll never have to leave home.” This drives many independent bookstores—which rely on profits to stay afloat—out of business, taking with them the entire culture of book buying I value (selling back used books, seeing my money go into the local economy, dealing with a bookseller, author readings, creaky floors, participating in a community as opposed to mouse-clicking, etc.)

There are exactly two ways you can react to things. You can either react sincerely or politically. For example, if I’m listening to a Chicago Cubs game in 2012, and a Cub hits a grand slam to win it in the ninth, I’ll probably shout “yes” and pump my fist. That’s reacting sincerely. If someone were to ask me what I think of the Chicago Cubs’ 2012 season, one in which they’ll finish well out of the playoff race, I’ll probably say something about how the rebuilding program they’re undergoing will lead to them fielding a competitive team for years to come. That’s reacting politically. Neither of the these reactions is untrue, they’re just two different ways of being true. Reacting politically always involves contrivance. Reacting sincerely, never. We tend to trust those who react sincerely and mistrust those who react politically.

In 2011 right here at The Nervous Breakdown, Duke Haney commented the following about an essay of mine on, among other things, the pop group ABBA:

“I always thought of Agnetha and Frida [the female members of ABBA] as affectless, to the point where I made a joke about them in [Haney's novel] Banned for Life, something about a German girl having a fixed expression that reminds the narrator of Raggedy Ann or ‘one of those girls in ABBA.’ I remember seeing them on TV when I was a kid, barely moving while lip-syncing their latest chart-buster, as if they were battery-operated mannequins; yet they don’t come across that way to me now. On the contrary, I see emotion flickering in their faces, Agnetha in particular.”

In Part I we introduced each band member, with particular emphasis on attention-deprived lead singer David Lee Roth. In Part III we tried to surmise what, if anything, can be taken from an Alex Van Halen drum solo, and we somehow survived Dave’s guitar playing in Part VI. In Part VII, I identify the rock I lost.

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In Part I we introduced each band member, with particular emphasis on attention-deprived lead singer David Lee Roth. In Part III we tried to surmise what, if anything, can be taken from an Alex Van Halen drum solo, and we watched Dave throw a tizzy-fit in Part V. In Part VI, let’s try not to cringe as Dave plays guitar.

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In Part I, we introduced each band member, with particular emphasis on attention-deprived lead singer David Lee Roth. Part II delved deeply into the squat as a Van Halen performance tool, and we explored possible explanations for Little Lord Fauntleroth in Part IV. In Part V, let’s enjoy a quiet moment with Eddie before Dave throws a tizzy.

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In Part I, we introduced each band member, with particular emphasis on attention-deprived lead singer David Lee Roth.  Part II delved deeply into the squat as a Van Halen performance tool, and we examined why you damn well better have a good time at a Van Halen concert in Part III. In part four, we now take a closer look at what’s really happening onstage…

Want to start at the beginning? Part I is here.

And you can find the whole series here.

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Two songs into the set, Roth offers a final “WOOW,” and Alex gets his double kick drum rumbling in a way that even a caveman would understand signals “drum solo.” I’ve never been a zealous fan of the drum solo, but I respect that these folks can put together complex rhythms, and without an obvious place for them in pop music, it’s nice for drummers to have this little forum where they can dump their more abstract work on us. All this to say, drum solo time equals pee time for me.

Want to start at the beginning? Part I is here.

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The band opens with a song called “Romeo Delight,” which is the fourth track off their third album Women and Children First. I wouldn’t have been able to name this tune until I remembered it as a favorite off that album. It’s a great “guy song”—a demographic Van Halen never had a problem accommodating—with an aggressive beat and the memorable couplet from the chorus: “I’m taking whiskey to the party tonight/And I’m looking for somebody to squeeze.” The band accentuates the tempo with plenty of first-song-of-the-night regalia: lots of jumping and kicking and gesticulating. Dave struts around like a transvestite on some very expensive amphetamine, bopping his shoulders for the camera, preening, sticking his tongue out.

Late in 2011, I typed “Van Halen” and “live” into YouTube’s search box.

I’d started this habit earlier in the year, diverting myself from whatever I was supposed to be doing by plumbing my rock fan past. I’d wasted entire mornings watching Kiss, Rush and Led Zeppelin videos, each filling me with a nostalgia that, all of a sudden, wasn’t nostalgia anymore. There it was, right in front of me, as close as it had ever been. I watched some of these videos obsessively, bookmarking them, feeling something of that original surge each time. ABBA, Uncle Tupelo, Fastway (Fastway!), the supply was bottomless. It was like finding long-lost friends and those friends having stayed as young and vital as ever.