Nick Johnstone
Nov 6, 2003

If you threw Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son, Lou Reed’s Berlin, Hubert Selby Jr’s Requiem For A Dream, Claude Chabrol’s Le Beau Serge, American Music Club’s Everclear, Ellen Miller’s Like Being Killed, Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant, Leslie Schwartz’ Jumping The Green and Rick Moody’s The Garden State into a food mixer, you’d probably end up with something as beautiful and damaged as this debut novel from 33 year old New Yorker Amanda Stern. Over 144 pages, Stern chronicles the calamitous relationship between an alcoholic musician (known only as ‘The Alcoholic’) and his troubled, co-dependent girlfriend (a nameless narrator throughout) via a cycle of short stories a la Jesus’ Son. Anecdotal and elliptical, like Johnson, Stern employs vignettes to signpost the deterioration of the relationship, as ‘The Alcoholic’ morphs from enigmatic party boy to suicidal drunk, dragging his girlfriend down with him through a syrup of break-ins, snowstorms, acid trips, seedy bars, flea-pit motels, fluffed gigs and hellish car rides. Reading Stern is like watching polaroids materialise, the horror creeping up on you. Picture perfect writing; a compelling story; emotions running over: in short, a great book about real life. Nick Johnstone