Beautiful Music
by Zadoorian, Michael






In early 1970s Detroit, Danny Yzernski-a heavyset, rock-n-roll-loving loner-balances a dysfunctional home life with the harsh realities of a racially turbulent high school, where he is transformed through the songs of local legends like the MCS and Iggy Pop.





Michael Zadoorian is the author of the critically praised The Leisure Seeker-now a film starring Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland, released by Sony Pictures Classics this year. Zadoorian is a recipient of a Kresge Artist Fellowship in the Literary Arts, the Columbia University Anahid Literary Award, the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award, and the Michigan Notable Book Award. His other books are Second Hand: A Novel, and the story collection The Lost Tiki Palaces of Detroit. His fiction has appeared in the Literary Review, Beloit Fiction Journal, American Short Fiction, Witness, Great Lakes Review, and the North American Review. He lives with his wife in the Detroit area.





It's 1970s Detroit, and 15-year-old Danny is head over heels in love with rock 'n' roll; it's a panacea, a sovereign remedy. When his father muses about music, Danny's comment is simple: "It just makes me happy." Music will need all its power when the father dies suddenly and the boy is left alone with his mother, who begins drinking heavily, sitting, drink in one hand and cigarette in the other, doing nothing but staring glassily at the TV. Danny must take over the family chores, becoming in effect his mother's father. And then there's school, where Danny is classic bully bait until two things happen: he acquires a friend who loves music as much as he does, and he is selected to be on-air talent and music director for the school's radio station. True to its time, there are occasional mini-race riots at school, but they seldom touch him-until they do, with dire consequences. This affectionate, nostalgic novel about a sometimes-troubled teen is a crossover delight with appeal to both adults and teens. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.





A teenager in 1970s Detroit takes his first steps toward hard-rock rebellion after a soft-rock upbringing. Zadoorian's third novel (The Leisure Seeker, 2009, etc.) is narrated by Danny, a white kid in Detroit who's slowly getting pushed out of his bubble. The 1967 race riots introduced him to racial divides, starting high school makes him absurdly anxious about becoming a drug addict, and a classmate who prankishly played the MC5's "Kick Out the Jams" in class reveals the existence of a louder, more profane world. His father's tastes run to the "beautiful music" of the title (the Carpenters, John Denver, etc.), but after he dies, Danny begins a slow-motion process of acting out, developing an affection for Led Zeppelin and Iggy Pop. That connects him to a fellow record nerd named John, who introduces him to the charms of British rock mags and weed. Increasingly confident thanks to John's friendship and a stint at the school radio station, Danny begins to push back against his grieving mother, who's been drinking heavily. The novel is notable for being a coming-of-age story without a romantic peg, Danny being too emotionally formless to pursue a relationship. But Zadoorian keeps the tone upbeat in other ways: He's skilled at capturing the feeling of release that music can provide ("something snaps in your heart and a jolt of pure happiness shoots through you better than all the dope in the world") as well as the anxiety the novelty of that experience can produce in a sheltered kid. The emphasis on those lighter elements soft-focuses the drama of the final pages, where racial tensions and mom's drinking come to a head. But that captures Danny's character too: The real world is encroaching, but he can keep it at arm's length just a while longer. A likable bildungsroman that cannily evokes how music transforms teenage identity. Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.






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