Published Nov 08, 2019Pete Townshend (yes, that one, of seminal rockers the Who) sticks close to what he knows on his debut novel. The Age of Anxiety is actually the first part of a three-piece mixed-media project that will include an opera and an art installation, both currently in development.
Longtime Who fans will immediately be reminded of Lifehouse, Townshend's similarly ambitious undertaking that was eventually abandoned in favour of making Who's Next in 1970. It's certainly close to home for the old legend, telling the story of a young rock star and a budding mental illness that eventually threatens to envelope his whole life.
Our narrator is Louis Doxtader, but the real protagonist is Walter Watts, an aspiring rock musician who begins hearing "soundscapes" — aural hallucinations that start to drive him insane. Nobody knows the ins-and-outs of the creative process better then Townshend, which is what makes his descriptions of Walter's soundscapes so engaging. You can almost hear the description of "a thousand million cathedral windows, shaken by the rumbling of an earthquake" or the "open-mouthed barking" of crushing plate metal.
Townshend's prose is great, but his fatal flaw is his treatment of female characters. Their physical descriptions and dialogue range from creepy to downright lecherous, especially where Louis's daughter is concerned. It's frankly difficult to care about all the soap-opera relationships while so many other interesting things are happening. Perhaps things will make more sense in the opera or visual art form. (Hachette)