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© Bella Stander

book reviews

by Bill Flanagan
(Random House)

September/October 2000

by Bella Stander

At its best, A&R is a scathingly funny indictment of the pop music industry, with gimlet-eyed assessments of its people and power politics. At its worst, which is far more often, it is disorganized and clumsily plotted, with poorly realized characters-and studded with howlers such as this one, mouthed by a drummer: "She was born in Chechnya, man…Her family was killed by the Serbs." Overall, the book reads like a first draft, with some passages lovingly crafted and others hilariously banal or just plain dumb: Who drives from Manhattan to Maine in just 10 hours via the Lake Champlain ferry, then through Vermont and New Hampshire? Unfortunately, many of the better-crafted segments are tangential to the story line, particularly those describing trips to Brazil and the Caribbean by protagonist Jim Cantone, a naïf from semirural Maine (with an Italian surname?), who unwittingly makes it big in the New York music business as an A&R (artists and repertoire) man. If Flanagan, a senior vice president of VH1, had honed his writing and cut out the extraneous plot shenanigans, this could have been a fine novel. Instead, it's a quick read with some memorable one-liners.

© 2000 Bella Stander

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