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Anything Goes: A novel
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Anything Goes: A novel

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  97 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
The only taste of life Jesse has known in his twenty years is bitter: his mother disappeared before he could talk, his father never got over being left, and Jesse’s presence seems only to kindle his father’s anger. Jesse’s talent is for music, which has given him a livelihood and a home as a bass player in a bar band called Anything Goes. Band life offers the opportunity f ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published June 25th 2002 by Pantheon (first published 2002)
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Steve Kettmann
May 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
My S.F. Chronicle review from 2002:

About halfway through this deliciously entertaining novel about an unexceptional blues and rock band and the series of dive bars it calls home, the coked-up lead guitarist walks off in a huff just before a gig. This time, he's gone for good.
Desperate, the band turns to a squirrelly con-man character with slicked- back hair and a "fairly pleasant, hound-dog expression." He's a loser, the kind of guy who asks for a cigarette, pockets the pack, and then gives you
Superstition Review
Oct 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Madison Smartt Bell’s thirteenth novel, Anything Goes, follows a year in the life of protagonist Jesse Melungeon. Jesse is the bass player for a cover band called Anything Goes. While the novel deals with the struggles of the band to stay afloat it also reveals Jesse’s complicated family history. Throughout its plot, the novel deals with complex issues such as race, abuse, and addiction.

Bell ingeniously develops Jesse’s character throughout the novel. Over time, Jesse becomes a more dynamic and
Jul 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Déjà envoûtée par les talents de conteur de Madison Smartt Bell avec All Souls Rising et le chemin vers l'indépendance d'Haïti, me voilà qui renouvelle l'expérience, cette fois-ci dans un tout autre registre.

"Anything Goes", titre original du roman, c'est aussi le nom d'un groupe de blues, peut-être un peu de rock, d'un peu tous les genres dans ce ton là, un groupe comme tant d'autres, qui vivote sur les circuit des bistrots et gargotes dans le Sud des USA, fuyant l'hiver, sans se démarquer, ni
Jun 25, 2011 rated it liked it
This is a first-person account from a young guy who's in a touring cover band. He has kind of a shaky relationship with his father and women, etc. You know. Kind of your standard coming-of-age stuff. This character is a complete fluff-brain. He has almost no thoughts about anything, and the author conveys this convincingly and well. By the end of the book, he's having thoughts, but they're still pretty elementary ones. Nevertheless, it's interesting to watch the character "evolve" to that point. ...more
Feb 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Jesse plays bass in the bar band called Anything Goes, which unfortunately is falling apart. While on a never ending tour of dive bars and one night stands, Jesse tries to hang on through the endless grind of the tour to re-establish a relationship with his father, start a relationship with the new lead singer, and improve as a musician.

I used to see a lot of bar bands and had always wondered what life may be like for them, traveling around together trying to make enough to get to the next town.
Jun 19, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
While Madison Smartt Bell doesn't use my favorite style of writing, I enjoyed the characters for not fitting into any stereotypes and for appearing quite real and conflicted without any easy answers. Even though we join Jesse in his twenties, the story feels very much like a coming-of-age tale, well woven and interesting. I must admit to some jealousy that the descriptions of chord progressions and musical genius was lost on me - definitely made me wish I'd grown up with some kind of musical bac ...more
Jan 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015-reads
I had this book sitting on my shelf for quite some time before chance had me pick it up. I really liked it, because I couldn't compare it to any other book. This is a slice of life that I would never have otherwise experienced. I found it true to life how people set up family in different ways, even ways that are bewildering to themselves. I loved Perry, a substitute but still flawed father figure. The reviews for this thing are all over the place. I guess it depends on where you are in your own ...more
Dan Pepper
Apr 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Classic small-bore novel about the titular small-time bar band. It's told from the perspective of Jesse, the bass player. It just features a nice cast of characters, from total assholes to pretty decent dudes and ladies.

It's just a nice, well-told, well-written novel.

One thing I've noted a lot of people seem to think is that dude's name is Jesse Melungeon. Not so. "Melungeons" are a backwoods tribe or group of people in the Applachians whose origins are supposed to be mysterious.
Itasca Community Library
Jeff says:

I used to see a lot of bar bands and had always wondered what life may be like for them, traveling around together trying to make enough to get to the next town. This book gives some insight into that life and into the hearts and minds of its band members: Jesse, the bass player and Perry, the group’s leader, as well as others.
Aug 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Love this author.

In this book, we're on the road for about a year with a 20-y.o. bass player in a small-time band traveling up-n-down the east coast playing dive clubs with the band. Very authentic folks, story, experiences.
Dec 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
a story of a professional musician on a tour loop with mid success. He finds the right ingredients for his band and then realizes he can be the musician he wants to be if he stops worrying and plays. A semi sad, semi hopeful book. Lots of music discussions - often beyond my knowledge.
Karl Kreisher
Jan 04, 2011 rated it liked it
I thought that this book was a very realistic novel of on the road life for many people back in the day. people did do this sort of thing back then and I think it was a pleasing read you should read it.
Mar 02, 2010 rated it it was ok
It took me a long time to get through this "dullish" book. There was a part in there regarding his dad's apology for abusing him as a kid that part I liked.
Feb 03, 2011 rated it liked it
Just read this book. It's an interesting read, esp. for a guy book.
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Madison Smartt Bell is a critically acclaimed writer of more than a dozen novels and story collections, as well as numerous essays and reviews for publications such as Harper’s and the New York Times Book Review. His books have been finalists for both the National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award, among other honors. Bell has also taught at distinguished creative writing programs including th ...more
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