Still hear­ing the siren song of rock-and-roll

The Washington Post Sunday - - BOOK WORLD - BY JOHN WIL­WOL book­world@wash­post.com For more books cov­er­age, go to wash­ing­ton­post.com/books.

“There are some of us who never had a choice,” Andy Abramowitz writes in his soul-search­ing first novel, “Thank You, Good­night.” “If we can make mu­sic, we make it and there’s no hope of turn­ing off the spigot. And if we can’t, we lis­ten and ob­sess.”

If you have no idea what the heck Abramowitz means there, you might have a tough time find­ing this novel’s beat. But if you’re the kind of guy who, af­ter a beer or three, can’t help but dust off that old six-string, you’ll prob­a­bly get a kick out of it.

“Thank You, Good­night” is about a 38year-old one-hit won­der turned lawyer whose midlife cri­sis trig­gers an ir­re­sistible urge to re­unite his old band. The novel is a lit­tle un­even, but it’s of­ten fun and un­fail­ingly heart­felt.

Teddy Trem­ble and his band, Trem­ble, were once, briefly, on top of the world. Their first al­bum went multi-plat­inum, and one of Teddy’s songs won an Os­car. But when Trem­ble had a chance to tour with an even hot­ter act, which surely would have se­cured the group’s fu­ture, Teddy’s ego got the bet­ter of him. He took Trem­ble out on a tour of its own — and it was its last.

When the novel opens, Teddy is in Dublin for a de­po­si­tion, and he gets a cryptic mes­sage from his old drum­mer: The front­man’s “legacy” is hang­ing in the Tate Mod­ern in Lon­don.

That turns out to be a cringe-wor­thy photo of Teddy, ti­tled “It Feels Like a Lie . . . and It Looks Like a Mess.” When Teddy con­fronts the pho­tog­ra­pher in Switzer­land, he’s shocked to find that Trem­ble still in­ex­pli­ca­bly rules there. The visit inspires him to start writ­ing again, and with a lit­tle luck— and the help of his es­tranged, quirky band­mates — Trem­ble might, once again, rock.

“Thank You, Good­night” deals with a spe­cial brand of male legacy anx­i­ety. Even though Teddy is gain­fully em­ployed in a lu­cra­tive pro­fes­sion, and even though he has had dream-wor­thy suc­cess in a dream-wor­thy in­dus­try, he still feels vaguely un­ful­filled.

Abramowitz vividly imag­ines the lives of mu­si­cians and lapsed mu­si­cians while glee­fully skew­er­ing lame mu­sic and bands. He also serves up a par­tic­u­larly bit­ing take on the le­gal pro­fes­sion. “The irony of law firms,” Abramowitz writes, “is that they’re stocked with hy­per­e­d­u­cated drones whom you hire for zeal­ous ad­vo­cacy but who are only there be­cause they didn’t feel par­tic­u­larly strongly about do­ing any­thing else with their lives.” What Teddy feels strongly about — and what this novel so en­joy­ably por­trays — is that we can do bet­ter than that.

“Lis­ten — it’s not enough to be good,” a pro­ducer says late in the novel. “We have an obli­ga­tion to be in­ter­est­ing.”

John Wil­wol is a writer in Washington.

THANK YOU, GOOD­NIGHT Andy Abramowitz Touch­stone. 340 pp. $26.

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