Camden Joy
Reading Frenzy
Thurs, May 16

Some rock critics are good because they're knowledgeable, or funny, or cutting. Camden Joy is good because he writes about himself. But it's not just that, like a lot of writers, Joy occasionally references himself or uses the first person; he superimposes himself onto the rockstars and cultural movements he is talking about and writes from his own fictional/autobiographical perspective.

For example, his first book, The Last Rock Star Book, or Liz Phair: a Rant, was not about Liz Phair in any real, biographical way. It was more about the prototype that Liz Phair was, what she represented in music, and how he, as the listener, mapped that musical and cultural significance onto his own life. Likewise, his book Boy Island centers around a real character named Camden Joy, who is the drummer in the band Cracker; it's Camden imagining himself as the drummer in a real band. And even though it seems like his obsession with rock stars is a kind of idolatry, it's more like Joy is looking at what rockstars represent.

Aside from the articles and books Joy started turning out in the mid '90s, which chronicled the exploding underground indie scene, he was responsible for pioneering some of the first DIY postering movements around New York, as well as efforts at guerilla theater and pirate radio.

With his latest three novellas, Hubcap Diamondstar Halo, Pan, and Palm Tree 13 (don't ask me why he put three books out at once, he does everything in a very strange way), Joy has taken his rock criticism one step further and abandoned any grounding the books have in reality. The books are now about Camden Joy's fictional life in fictional bands. In Hubcap Diamondstar Halo, for example, the main character is G., a member of a band who wrecks the tour bus and then, writes songs and makes a movie about the wreck.

Like his other books, the story centers around the relationship between music and real life: "It is as if I am thrown from one of my own songs," says the main character, describing being thrown from his vehicle in the wreck. "I am outside an aesthetic peering in, able to summon a broader perspective than ever possible, broader than can possibly be later recollected and recounted to such a perspective. I have crashed the song. Film beckons, songs plus visuals. Dialogues with soundtracks."

However, while Joy's new work gives him more fictional freedom, it falls into a more standard form of writing, which is that he just mimics real life, rather than writing about real pop culture. Whereas before he mixed artistic license with reality in a unique way, now he's just become a normal fiction writer.

Nevertheless, Joy is certainly a pioneer in his time, and nerdy music geeks like yourself will certainly be into seeing him, even if he's not reading his best piece of work.