That Summertime Sound

Former film executive Matthew Specktor makes his fiction debut with this gossamer yet feverish coming-of-age novel about a nameless 19-year-old lost boy who spends the summer of 1987 slinking around Columbus, Ohio, where "[y]ou could stay up all night and sleep all day and dig the pennies out of your pocket for drink tickets, chocolate bars, mix-tapes and beer." For this California native (described by his girlfriend as "the thinkiest person" she's ever met), the town's gravitational attraction is punk band Lords of Oblivion, headed by weedy Nic Devine, who turns out to be a kind of savior and sinner both. The outcast social circle of bourgeois depressives (one torn, for instance, between Yale and England) is disrupted by dramas of urban Greek-tragedy proportions: rape, AIDS, a childhood home burning to the ground. Apart from heavy-handedness, the story bottles truisms about hangdog music lovers marching to the beat of their own college-rock soundtracks. "Bassists are no good," grumbles one oblivious Lord. "They just hog all the girls and make it tougher for the rest of us. Nothing good ever came out of a bassist." Laughing, I read this line to a bass player friend, who responded, "Sounds like a drummer, if they could write." But how did he deduce that it was a drummer? "Singers don't think about anyone but themselves, and guitar players have no trouble getting girls in the first place." With pitch-perfect dialogue and uncut desires, Specktor's book sings of an eternal rock 'n' roll youth stamped, from the outset, with a blurry date of expiration.

April 24: "[The HST] lifted a curtain from our view of the universe, changing it so profoundly that no human can look at the stars in the same way..."

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.