Putting together a band is difficult. There are the awkward first rehearsals, the fights about what direction the band should take, and what kind of music they should play. Starting a band is unnerving and frustrating. The Forty Watt Flowersis a novel that documents the beginning of an “all-girl” band in Athens, Georgia in the early ‘90s.
A budding bass player named Trisha is one of the main characters in the novel. She is frustrated with her bandmates, who either expect her to match their musical prowess, or are shy and unsure of their musical abilities. Trisha is somewhere in the middle with her talents, but is determined to become a better musician and keep the band together and functional. The band starts out slowly in rehearsals but gathers steam and generates a rapid crowd. The author tracks the success of the band by using receipts of money earned and keeping track of how many people attended each show.
Bands and songs are name checked throughout the book; references to The Cramps, Iggy Pop, and Hole are sprinkled all over the novel to provide an idea what the fledging band sounds like. Like the big whale in Moby Dick, the leviathan of R.E.M. swims elusively in Athens, and a few members eventually make an appearance.
The characters in The Forty Watt Flowersare described from an omniscient perspective and with passion. It seems like we could know each one of them, or someone like them, fairly well. The novel is clearly written and captures the gestation period of a band, with the long talks about music and each other, the factions within the band, and the truncated practices where everyone storms off. This is an enjoyable book, especially for those who are thinking of starting a band. –Steve Hart (Winking Owl Publications, 1209 Queen St. East, Suite 41, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4M3H4)