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True Love Scars

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It's 1972, and the Sixties are gone, baby gone. Only Michael Stein, Age 19, doesn't have a clue. Soon enough he will. The love is gone and all that's left are the drugs. How the dream died and what there is left after. How you cope.

A Northern California beach-side town and Michael Stein, a serious Bob Dylan fan, is bummed out as he walks across the quad at The University. He is searching, searching for what he calls the authentic real. A way he felt, a way he lived, in the late Sixties, in the days when he was with her, his high school girlfriend, his first love. Searching for who he was before he lost Sweet Sarah, and his life crashed and burned. But on this day Michael Stein is different. He’s not who he used to be.

He’s Writerman.

As Writerman, he’s aware of so much.

As Michael Stein, he doesn’t have a clue.

Michael Stein. Writerman.

The young man. The Myth.

Michael Stein is obsessed with sex. Writerman too; only for Writerman the sex is more than sex. Sex is the door to intimacy, and transcendence. And women, especially one woman, his Visions of Johanna, is the only door he knows to escape into ecstasy, and free himself from himself.

For Michael Stein, the Sixties ended in the nut house. His parents blamed his erratic behavior on drugs. Michael Stein blames himself. After all, he broke his Sweet Sarah’s heart.

Aware. Both Michael Stein and Writerman are aware they are living through one of the biggest social changes America has experienced. Trouble is, Michael Stein isn’t aware that the Sixties are over. Writerman, though, always The Warrior, always The Seeker, Writerman has a clue: The love is gone and all that’s left is the drugs.

Michael Stein, on that sunny day on the quad, well something extraordinary happens. He meets a fellow traveler, Lord Jim, an uninhibited freakster bro who’s going to turn Michael Stein on to more than the drugs. Michael Stein doesn’t know it yet but he is about to set forth on the wildest ride of his life.

“True Love Scars” is book one of the Freak Scene Dream Trilogy. These three books are one long deep breath. The exhale is obsessive, transgressive. How macho meets feminism. How second chakra rises up to third. Through all the women: Sweet Sarah, Beat-Chick Elise, Jaded, Simone, Harper, Eve. A puff, a party, a tragedy —from marijuana to angel dust, teenage heartbreak to addiction, from “All You Need is Love” to the junked-out punk of the New York Dolls.

“True Love Scars.” Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll like you’ve never experienced them.

If you liked Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” or J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye” or Nick Hornby’s “High Fidelity,” this book, which some might call “Literary Fiction” and others might call “New Adult,” is for you.

283 pages, Paperback

First published July 1, 2014

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About the author

Michael Goldberg

3 books17 followers
So what do you wanna know?

My second novel, The Flowers Lied, a rock 'n' roll coming-of-age story, is now available. It's the second book in the Freak Scene Dream Trilogy.


"If Lester Bangs had ever published a novel it might have read like this frothing debut..." – Rolling Stone

“Radioactive as Godzilla" – legendary rock critic Richard Meltzer

“Kerouac in the 21st Century.” – Jack Kerouac biographer Dennis McNally

“Penned in a staccato amphetamine grammar…” – Simon Warner, author of "Text And Drugs And Rock 'N' Roll: The Beats And Rock Culture"

“Holden Caulfield meets Lord Buckley?” – founder of The Realist Paul Krassner

And so is my first novel, True Love Scars.


Culture Critic Roy Trakin picked True Love Scars as one of the ten best books of 2014. Read his review here:


Praise about True Love Scars:

“Michael Goldberg is comparable to Kerouac in a 21st century way, someone trying to use that language and energy and find a new way of doing it.” – Mark Mordue, author of Dastgah: Diary of a Head Trip

“True Love Scars reads like a fever dream from the dying days of the Summer of Love. Keyed to a soundtrack of love and apocalypse, Writerman pitches headlong into a haze of drugs, sex and confusion in search of what no high can bring: his own redemption. Read it and be transformed.” – Alina Simone, occasional Op/Ed columnist for the New York Times, author of Note to Self and You Must Go and Win

Some of my background:

When I was a kid, rock ’n’ roll and literature made life worth living.

Or rather, it was literature that rocked my world—“Treasure Island,” “Crime and Punishment,” the Hardy Boys books, the Oz books, all those sexy 007 novels—until I turned 12, and then rock ’n’ roll—The Beatles, the Stones, Dylan, The Yardbirds—blew my mind.

Well girls trumped both, but that’s another story.

Beginning in 1984 I spent 10 crazy years talking to everyone from George Harrison and George Clinton to Brian Wilson and Stevie Wonder for Rolling Stone where I was an Associate Editor and a Senior Writer. My writing has also appeared in Wired, Esquire, Vibe, Details, Downbeat, NME and many more.

In 1994 I’d founded Addicted To Noise (ATN), the highly influential music web site. Newsweek magazine called me an “Internet visionary.”

I joined forces with SonicNet in 1997. I was a senior vice-president and editor in chief at SonicNet from March 1997 through May 2000.

I currently publish the video-and-audio-intense culture blog, Days of the Crazy-Wild at www.daysofthecrazy-wild.com.

Any other questions?

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 11 of 11 reviews
Profile Image for Judy.
27 reviews
September 17, 2014
The Ingenious Author's newest novel is a masterpiece of strategy...an exciting novel from square one to the stunning conclusion. Michael Goldberg proves once again he is a master of writing a great Book. True Love Scars remnd me of the 60' I was a little girl small town but I hear and read about the sex, drug's and all , I remember the love everyone had for each there and the Peace everyone wanted . by 1972 I was becoming a teenager, the love everyone had was gone and people change. The part I liked in the book was "sixties and the love and that Michael Stein and Whariterman are award they are living though one of the biggest Social Changes Ameica has experienced. Trouble is Michael Stein isn't a aware that the Sixties are over". I think a lot of people had touble being aware that the Sixties were gone until the eighties came around. For me it was great to read about everything that I hear and read about in the Sixties, and reliving the "Love". I cant wait to read Michael Goldberg's new book. I give this book a 10. and thanks for being back the Sixties and the early 70's .
June 23, 2014
Michael Goldberg's True Love Scars is a must read. Here's why. True Love Scars defines the span of two cool decades, the sixties and early seventies and disrobes this alluring era and brings it into our living room in a palpable way. The author knows what he's talking about. Dave Eggers said through the mouth of one of his famous and funny animal drawings, "Please don't tell me about the sixties." But I say we all want to be told about the sixties and seventies. This era was moving musically and politically.
No one can deny that these decades inspired some of the best writing revolutions one can imagine in the not so recent past. It was also a tragic time. Revolutions took place out in the streets, on college campuses and in the bedroom. This book takes us into this world and we are mesmerized when we watch this world unfold. This in and of itself would make this book a must read. But True Love Scars goes much further than that. The reader is captivated immediately with his hero, Writer-man Mike, a sensitive, astute observer who struggles to make sense of a tilted universe who can't see itself. This narrator sees all. His ability to see all leads him on a journey that is both redemptive and gritty. He is on a path that seeks love and truth. The world can't meet his kindness or his breadth of vision. This book is a gift because you enter into it with familiar, reliable comfortable distractions and come out the other side, a whole lot different. This is the reason we read--to change the way we think and think about how we think. His narrator is a hero in every situation even when he is driven by forces he can't control. Goldberg knows how to craft these difficult scenes with pathos. Writerman-Mikes sees shit. He sees the beauty in the world, the utter recklessness of distractions like Modern Danish furniture and how this furniture or things like it can get in our way and obstruct our seeing. Writer-man Mike likes Dylan, calls himself a Dylanphile. Do you want to get lost in delight? That's a choice to see the world that way. Most of us live inside a soul deadening rat race and aren't aware of the facts. Writer-Man mike is fighting against this race. This book is a privilege because the narrator shows us what it means to be human on a moment to moment basis and he tells us what people do to themselves and to other people. Oh god, yeah-oh god. It's time to hitch up your pants and read this necessary book. What a voice! and I loved his description of our collective Mom and collective Dad and how with compassion he brought us back to that style of parenting and how they too, were trapped by their own scene. Buy this book. Come on! right now! I was an English major at UC Berkeley and I fall asleep with a book in my hands. I was published at pank magazine in October 2012. I know what I am talking about when it comes to books. This is a gem.
1 review1 follower
July 12, 2014
Michael Goldberg’s intense, often painful debut novel is a teenager’s crazy journey to transcend his middle class nothingness in the late 60’s when everything is possible but nothing seems stable or reliable. Taking the name Writerman fifteen-year-old Michael Stein transforms his love of music into a singularly distinctive voice that reflects his desire to write about Dylan, Lennon, the Stones and others of his early years. It’s the rhythm of his voice that adds another dimension to Steins character, Writerman

The emotional heart of this first novel is Stein’s agonizing yearning to find purity and perfection with his first love, Sweet Sarah. Through high school, the two strive to overcome traumatic situations that batter them time and again. Stein’s insecurities and immaturity leaves him broken until all that’s left are wrong choices. True Love Scars is the teen age boy’s distressing three year journey into the self destructive depths of what he calls The Days of the Crazy Wild.

It’s an impressive first novel of Michael Goldberg’s Freak Scene Dream Trilogy. I want to find out what will happen as it leaves 19-year-old Stein wandering into a new Crazy Wild.
38 reviews
October 4, 2014
True Love Scars' adolescent narrator burns the pyre of hippie idealism as a revelation to the dark face of its excess. His coming of age is not without its grand revelations, but, can any summer be one of love when the price of admission is friends, family, and sanity?

Any piece by Michael Goldberg has a post-beat, hippie-savant poetry all its own, but this is a rare work, a passionate, immersive experience in the sound, attitude and language of an era.
Profile Image for Adam Strong.
32 reviews3 followers
October 9, 2014
I met Michael Goldberg back in 2008 down in Tom Spanbauer’s Basement. He spent about a year down there work-shopping what was to become True Love Scars. Michael Goldberg has written for Rolling Stone Magazine, Downbeat magazine and many others. He founded an early internet music website that I still miss called Addicted to Noise. He also runs his music blog, Days of the Crazy Wild.

So as soon as I found out the book was coming out I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I’ve always loved Michael’s writing, the encylopedic knowledge, all the period details that makes one feel that they are in the middle of things, in medias res. How music is eternal and it’s up to the author to bring that eternity to the page.

Here’s a review I wrote about True Love Scars, book one of Michael Goldberg’s Freak Scene Dream Trilogy

There’s an inner physics to the voice of the narrator In True Love Scars, book one of Michael Goldberg’s Freak Scene Dream Trilogy. Michael is a young man knee deep in the musical and sexual revolution of the late 1960s.Michael wants the purest love, but the allure of free love and loud music pulls him in two different directions. On one hand Michael is looking for a pure and perfect love. On the other hand Michael is wrestling with the idea of being a “freakster bro with all guns blazing.”

Through the lens of a true Dylanophile, Goldberg’s narrator is rendered with a voice that rattles off the page. He’s too cool for this universe. He is so innocent at first. He thinks he knows but he doesn’t know. He is a heavy traffic freakster bro of the highest order in search of the ultimate bohemian sexual magnet goddess incarnate. The narrator is this cool know it all cat, although he doesn’t really know it all and it takes women and rock and roll and art and life and times Dylan and I mean specific album cover snapshots of Dylan new life worn into the fabric of what is happening to get born get down and get redeemed.

There is detail and being alive in the moment. It’s an eternal tale of love and sex in the 60s. It’s a Bildungsroman, a coming of age tale in a time I always wanted to be alive in. And how alive this book is, with the voice and the muscle and the place Goldberg puts us in.

Michael Goldberg uses time as a tool too because he’s writing this knowing everything that’s happened before: The sexual revolution, the let down of the 1970s. True Love Scars perfectly straddles these two time periods what happened before with Michael and his heavy traffic purest love Sweet Sarah and all the great backstory. You want heartbreak? You got it. You want period detail? You got that too. You might even see an old idealized version of your 16 year old self, I know I did.
September 10, 2014
Gene Simmons of KISS recently blabbered on about Rock & Roll being a thing of the past-- but that man invested in Arena Football and is an idiot. Rock & Roll is no longer novel but that doesn't stop its influence from peeping out of the ruble.
"True Love Scars" is some of the better modern Rock & Roll fiction writing not because of the subtle Dylan lyrical references sprinkled throughout like Easter Eggs, but because it evokes the ethos that maybe a few chords mixed with the right words can make a positive change and mean something when shared.
The story follow the young "Writerman" who battles adolescence with a pen and a record needle, sequestered between the mountains of Marin County during the early 1970s. Maneuvering through life while encountering heartbreak, "Writerman" embraces his childhood as it rests in the echo of the freak scene 1960s. The movement is over but "Writerman" isn't standing still.
Goldberg's prose and style may take a second to catch on but once you adjust you can feel the rhythm of the story pound along as he repeats certain phrases like choruses to a song. Plus, he can write the hell out of intimate--yet awkward-- love scene.
"True Love Scars" can be read by two audiences: the confused parent who can't seem to understand why their teen stays confined in their room while muffled rock songs seep under the door frame as well as the other side of the wall where a young person may discover their not the only one who loves that particular song.
Profile Image for Brendan.
Author 19 books170 followers
June 22, 2014
A crazy fever dream of a coming-of-age novel, featuring a young man who falls in love and subsequently goes off the rails on a crazy train. The narrative voice is really distinctive, and it definitely took me a few pages to get used to it, but I wound up getting caught up in the crazy musical flow of it all and was carried effortlessly through the pages.

Sex and drugs and rock and roll, all before the age of majority, but it's a pretty dark ride as our protagonist careens from first love to mental illness. There are parts of this book that feel so real they are painful to read--the adolescent psyche and the self-destructive behavior of a young person on the edge felt completely spot-on. Nowhere near as dark as The Basketball Diaries, but it's a closer cousin to that book than to, say, Youth in Revolt or King Dork.

Which is to say, not for everybody, but definitely for some people, and I'm one of them. Maybe you are too!

Disclosure: the author is an acquaintance of mine (he used to get me free music to review for the late, lamented MOG when he worked there and I was a mogger), and he gave me a free e-copy. "Write about it if you like it," he said. I did, so I did!
July 29, 2014

Michael Goldberg's new novel, True Love Scars, takes the reader on a wild, crazy ride back to the late '60s and early '70s where we meet protagonist Michael Stein who in his own freakster bro language paints a vivid picture of what it was like to be a teenager wrestling with young love, awkward sex, disconnected parents and drug-addled peers.

What makes the book extra special and so very readable is that Goldberg plants you smack dab in the time period with lessons learned from the greatest works of Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Mick Jagger and other musical giants making big contributions to the culture at that time.

So if you didn't experience the Summer of Love firsthand and always wanted to know what it felt like to have been a part of the Woodstock generation (or want to take a trip back to those freaky times), pick up True Love Scars and immerse yourself into the twisted world of the young Michael Stein, Goldberg's radically confused alter ego.
August 14, 2014
Read this book. If you've lived through the '60s/'70's this book will take you back to the time when sex was fear free, pot was cheap and music was everything.
Bob Dylan rules the life of lead character Michael Stein. It's a love story with twists and turns that end him in jail, on a plane to LA with a 14 year old virgin and with a seductress in college who blows the freshman's mind. The dreaded parents play their role perfectly and they don't have a clue. But dear old alcoholic Dad shows up when really needed. Good Dad. If Dylan,the Stones, Iggy Pop, Nico or Marianne Faithful mean anything to you, get this book. Or as one writer put it, I have seen the future of (rock 'n roll books) and it is True Love Scars.
Profile Image for Arthur.
24 reviews1 follower
August 9, 2014
I found the first few chapters quite amusing as Goldberg blended Dylanesque imagery with the introduction of his characters. Many of the situations in which he entangles his people are reminiscent of 60's hedonism; nostalgia it is not.
Woven through this is an at first tender love story which disastrously unravels as the main character succumbs to the allure of the amorality of the drug and sex darkness in the death of hippie.
So if you wish to go there, either as a novice or as a burnt out case of 60'sdom, read this. Otherwise find something else to illuminate the times that were a changin'.
Goldberg tells us this is book one of a trilogy. The rest I will pass on.
Profile Image for Darcee Kraus.
322 reviews22 followers
October 8, 2014
I won this novel in the First Reads giveaway and was so excited to receive it! The first couple chapters were amusing yet somewhat confusing. Goldberg is an intense writer that keeps you turning the pages! Too much sex for me, but what did I expect? Otherwise, a great novel!
Displaying 1 - 11 of 11 reviews

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