Ben Greenman's new novel, Please Step Back, is an ecstatic, Day-Glo colored mess about rock 'n' roll. Please stars a rough analog for Sly (of "...and the Family Stone") with the ostentatious stage name "Rock Foxx." It's not a very long novel but it runs all over the place, getting its fingerprints on everything—race relations, the love generation, the creative process, and the birth of what became modern pop music—without a care for politeness or propriety.
Please stays amped up on its own literary energy all the way through. Foxx is a jumper cable of a main character and Greenman seems to feed on Foxx's inventiveness, using music as a metaphor for everything up to and including life: "Sometimes things rhymed, like in a verse, and some other things repeated, like in a chorus."
The problem with telling a rock 'n' roll story is that Behind the Music has trained even the most unimaginative reader to expect what is coming. It's to Greenman's credit that, though he hits the anticipated notes—drugs, sexual experimentation, band infighting—they are not what drives the melody of the novel: Please isn't some tired reiteration of the Icarus story. Instead it's a love story about the divine and difficult relationship between a man and the beauty that he can make with his mind.