Never Mind Nirvana
by Mark Lindquist (Villard)
An invitation arrived in the mail from Bret Easton Ellis for a party on 75th and Park Avenue, and of course I go, because I'll go anywhere for a free beer. The party was for some guy from Seattle named Mark Lindquist who just published a novel called Never Mind Nirvana.
Lindquist is a high school friend of Bret, and looks about as grunge as the Bronx looks like an Oregon forest. In fact, if this guy showed up in your apartment to buy grass you'd know he's a cop. He's tall with a movie star tan and wearing a very expensive suit, standing in a foyer beside a vase about the size of a refrigerator. The room looks like a hotel lobby--moody lighting, big chairs, more vases everywhere, a fresco on the wall of slaves unloading boats or something--and is populated by young women with very rich fathers, some of Bret's handsome boyfriends, and a few 30-something writers. Sadly the only beer on hand is, guess--Corona! But I don't have to raid the icebox myself, that's left to the waiters.
So I plunk myself on the black leather couch and start paging through the book. The dust jacket of Mark's novel is a replica of Nirvana's Nevermind album cover, replacing the baby chasing the dollar underwater with some yuppie dude. Irony or marketing? Rip off or homage?
Well, it turns out to be a book about a 40-year-old cad, Peter Tyler, a man who has slept with, by his estimate, 300 women. "Hey," he justifies, "that's only 15 a year." He used to be in a band, but now he's a district attorney, and his next case is prosecuting a local musician for date rape. So this Tyler guy has a moral dilemma on his hands, because he too has probably done his own fair share of date rapes among those 300 or so ladies he's bedded. Tyler feels so guilty he even goes to see a priest about it. However, the minister ends up telling him Clinton jokes.
Lest I bore you with anymore details the highlight of the book comes in the first chapter when Mr. Tyler meets a girl in a bar and takes her back to his place. She steps into the bathroom and does a bump of heroin, then comes out and pukes on Tyler, and the funny thing is, you're so happy for the girl! That's called reverse character development.
In fact, much of the book is about Tyler trying to remind us how cool he once was. Pete Tyler, it seems, used to be a grunge lord (he played in a band that was signed by Polygram and released one CD) but he gave all that up to work for the government. Now he prefers the drapings of old money; penny loafers, Johnnie Walker Black, Burberry shirts. etc. He used to eat at Denny's but now plops down at McCormick and Schmidt's. Out cruising he goes for the "smoking girl with pearls." Oh yeah, I almost forgot to tell you, he lives in a loft with a panoramic view of the Seattle harbor and plays Hole records to get a girl in the right mood. In other words, never mind Nirvana, what about me?
I guess what I'm trying to say here is this seems like somebody co-opting a party long after the last keg is dry. Never Mind Nirvana ends up being an "insider's" look of the Seattle music scene as viewed through the glass window of Starbuck's, a Rough Guide to Seattle's shopworn establishments hoping to be the
next High Fidelity. Nearly every dingy bar and every no-name musician is inclu ded here--look, there's Chris Cornell's little brother! I'm all for a little color, but Tyler, while being mounted by some Sub Pop hottie on the monorail, tells us that just below them is the old boarded up Ditto tavern. Well hey, I played at the Ditto Tavern too, but that shoebox had nothing on the pantyless girl bouncing on your lap! Why the digression?
The publishing house is promoting the book as a Seattle guy's Bridget Jones Diary. Well that might be fun--Bridget Jones on heroin!--but it's not. It is a fast and easy read that zips from bars to bedrooms and back again, one of those novels that gets gobbled up while eating a muffin in Powell's coffee shop. Nothing happens, but you keep reading anyway, looking for familiar road signs. It's pleasant in a voyeuristic way, but it's also a tired recap of yuppie casual sex amidst a lot of great artists and their less-than-fortunate groupies.
And how's this for an ending: The SubPop hottie wants to go to law school, as if everybody wants to be a sellout, just like Peter Tyler.