All I Care About Is Music is a coming-of-age novella concerning one unnamed high school kid’s introduction to punk and how, to some of us—at least in our initial exposure—it seems diametrically and viciously opposed to every single tenet “straight” society enforces. From this kid’s first day in a new school, he’s feeling lost, disconnected to his peers, isolated from pretty much every social structure he’s exposed to—until he comes across punk. It’s definitely a passionate book and was probably cathartic as shit for the author to write. And to some degree I’m sure we can all relate to that shocking disenchantment we came across as young kids trying to find our way in the world, that stark realization that many people are pretty shitty human beings, that school sucks, that in many instances the only person who gives a shit about you is you.
Unfortunately, that’s about all I can say that positive about this one. For one thing, both the inner character development and person-to-person dialogue are really, really rough—there wasn’t a moment in All I Care About when I was unaware that I was reading a book, when it took me somewhere else, slammed me into the character’s shoes, and made me get walking. Secondly, I really had a hard time agreeing with some of the principles the story seems to espouse: mainly that theft is a means to an end in and of itself, especially when it comes to ripping shit off from independently owned stores, even if the owners are dicks.
Long and short of the book is this kid feels totally alone and isolated until he finally meets that one hot punk girl in school—she introduces him to her friends, who introduce him to punk through record theft. Through that, he meets the owner of a record store, who gets him to punk vinyl collecting. Ultimately, the climax of the story starts when the owner of the record store gets him to start stealing records from other stores in order to trade for a very rare punk single. I guess it could’ve been an interesting premise if it was handled deftly—the story does bring up interesting questions about vinyl fetishism, the idea of property, when and if theft is ever okay. Unfortunately, there’s just such a sense of a very young writer (either in age or the actual practice of daily, consistent fiction writing and hardcore editing) present here that it was really hard to become captivated with the story being told.
An example, when the kid watches as Kaye, the record store owner, responds to Wardlow, “the greatest record collector in the world,” who ruined Kaye’s record-collecting reputation years ago and has come into the record store yet again, wanting a copy or recording of the “rarest, most important record in this world,” which Kaye owns. Kaye responds:
“That mistake ruined my life. Look at me. I’m in this dirty hole selling used vinyl to teenagers, clinging onto the one thing that means anything to me because I knew that one day you’d come. What I had was so important, so very important, and real. I knew that the rumor of what I had would grow and turn into a legend. You are the first to come, but others will follow. And to each of them I am going to say, ‘No.’ And I’ll tell them it’s because of you. That you turned me against the world. The record doesn’t belong to humanity. It’s mine forever.”
Sheesh, talk about a couple of thespians. I’ve been to a lot of record stores before, and I’ve never heard employees or owners speak like that. I mean, after dialogue of that sort, you’d expect the guy to fiendishly rub his hands together and give out a bloodcurdling Bwah-ha-ha-hah! or something.
I do feel bad about slagging the book, about almost any book—as it’s pretty obvious that AICAIM came from a really personal place within the author’s life—but between the stilted writing and the ridiculous plot, I just feel like maybe the author should sit down and be willing to write a few more cruddy things before the jewels start to reveal themselves and he or she runs out to get them published. –Keith Rosson ($8 ppd. Sabba-Too-Jee, 260 Adelaide St. E., Box 62, Toronto, ON M5A 1N1, Canada)